On Healthcare, Clinton Has Edge Over Trump for Voters' Trust

The poll, which the Kaiser Family Foundation has done at intervals since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, once again found Americans divided on how they felt about the healthcare law.

Trust may be Hillary Clinton’s Achilles heel in this presidential election, but when it comes to healthcare, she has an edge over Donald Trump with the voters, according to the most recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.

The poll, conducted on August 18-24, 2016, and released September 1, 2016, found that voters generally believe that Clinton would do a better job handling healthcare issues than Trump, although they also don’t believe either candidate has much chance of keeping the cost of healthcare in check. Clinton leads Trump on most healthcare issues, but especially on the ability to handle women’s reproductive rights:

· On the ability to manage Medicare’s future, Clinton (53%) vs Trump (38%).

· On ensuring access to and affordability of healthcare, Clinton (52%) vs Trump (39%).

· On finding solutions to rising prescription drug costs, Clinton (51%) vs Trump (39%).

· On ensuring Medicaid’s future, Clinton (54%) vs Trump (37%).

· On dealing with the Zika virus outbreak, Clinton (54%) vs Trump (34%).

· On guaranteeing access to women’s reproductive healthcare, Clinton (64%) vs Trump (28%).

Clinton’s weakest showing was on managing the future of the ACA itself, where she polled only 50% vs Trump’s 41%. Among voters over age 65, who most reliably go to the polls, sentiment over who would do the best on healthcare is less divided, with 44% favoring Trump and 47% favoring Clinton. A large majority of female voters, 71%, say they trust Clinton to do a better job on ensuring access to reproductive health services, compared to 1 in 5 (20%) who say they trust Trump.

An interesting finding of the poll is that two-thirds of voters—66%—believe that the future of Medicare should be top issue in the presidential contest, and that all but 5% of voters think it’s not even an important concern. Thus far, the topic has received less attention than immigration, terrorism, and the candidates’ personal qualities, which have all ranked high in previous Kaiser polls.

Two-thirds of voters also thought access and affordability of healthcare should be a top priority. The future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) did not rank as high, with only 52% saying it should be a top priority and 13% saying it was not an important concern. However, only one-third (33%) say electing Clinton would make a difference in making healthcare more affordable and available, and 29% felt electing Trump would do this.

When asked, voters in both parties, as well as independents, said that the cost of prescription drugs is a chief concern, although the sentiment was higher among Democrats (63%) compared with Republicans (47%) and Independents (48%). Polls as far back as April 2015 found bipartisan support for doing something to make prescription drugs affordable.

In this poll, the cost of drugs ranked fourth among top concerns, with 53% saying it was a top priority and 8% saying it was not a chief concern. Just ahead, at 54%, was the future of Medicaid. Since the last presidential election, the ACA has taken full effect and Medicaid expansion has reached 31 states, accounting for nearly 8 million of the 21 million people who have gained coverage under the law. Of note, concerns about the opioid and heroin crisis ranked ahead of women’s reproductive health, especially among Republicans.

The poll found some things don’t change. As has been the case since Kaiser began tracking it, partisan divide over the ACA continues: 40% say they have a favorable view of the law and 42% have an unfavorable view.