How to win Latino voters: protect health care and lower health costs

How to win Latino voters: protect health care and lower health costs

With midterm elections in full swing, political pundits are highlighting the pivotal role Hispanic voters are likely to play β€” and for good reason.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) projects that Hispanics will make up 1 in 10 voters nationally, with higher proportions in some key battleground states β€” roughly 1 in 5 voters in Arizona and Florida and 1 in 6 Nevada voters. Those levels would replicate Latino voters’ historic turnout in the 2018 mid-term elections, representing a 71 percent increase over 2014 participation levels.

Understanding Latino voters’ public policy views should thus be a top priority for observers trying to make sense of the 2022 midterms. And health care is an issue that is front and center for Hispanic voters. According to an extensive UnidosUS poll of Latino voters:

  • More than 9 in 10 Hispanic voters believe government should make sure everyone can afford health care.
  • 85 percent want to see the pandemic’s health coverage expansions made permanent.
  • Among the majority of Latino voters who rank the rising cost of living as their top issue, nearly half specifically mention health care expenses as a problem meriting elected officials’ attention.

Nearly 3,000 Latino voters responded to the survey, which identified health care as the issue where Democrats enjoyed their largest advantage over Republicans: 52 percent of Latino voters described Democrats as sharing their values ​​and priorities on health care, compared to just 18 percent who said this about Republicans.

Health care has been among Latino voters’ main public policy concerns for more than a decade, and their views on the parties have likely been shaped by very public health care debates in recent years. Democrats visibly championed the Affordable Care Act, which brought health care to more than 5 million previously uninsured Latinos, reducing the number of Latinos without health coverage from 15.5 million in 2010 to 10.2 million in 2016. Soon thereafter, Republicans were equally visible in seeking the ACA’s repeal, which would have taken health care away from more than 5 million Latinos.

Overwhelming Hispanic voter support for health care should give the issue a high profile for parties and candidates seeking Latino support. Nevertheless, partisan policy differences have remained sharp since the failed attempt at ACA repeal. This past summer, Democrats passed legislation to cut prescription drug prices in Medicare. Unfortunately, all Republicans voted against the legislation, despite the policy’s remarkably strong support among Latino voters. According to the most recent tracking poll from NALEO, a staggering 88 percent of Latino voters support allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices on prescription drugs, including 51 percent who support the policy strongly. No other issue covered by the survey earned this level of support.

That same summer, legislation also prevented a 53 percent increase in premium costs for people who buy their own insurance in the ACA marketplace, which now serves an estimated 2.6 million Latinos. Not a single Republican voted to protect working families from this huge cost increase, even though numerous Republican lawmakers were seeking re-election based on the rising cost of living.

Hispanic voters are sending a message to both parties. Democrats cannot win value-aligned Latino voters based on health policy differences that the party has not communicated effectively. Among voters in general, only a small minority knows about the legislation that lowered Medicare prescription drug costs. And as of Oct. 9, less than a month before the midterms, Democrats had contacted fewer than half of Hispanic voters, even though two-thirds of Hispanic voters plan to cast their ballots before Election Day.

For Republicans, continuing attacks on American health care could substantially undercut Latinos’ future openness to voting Republican. Recent days have seen Republicans advance proposals deeply out of step with Latino voters’ health care values, seeking major cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and using the savings to extend President Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy and for large corporations.

Hispanic communities’ political power is significant and likely to grow. Both parties understand the need for Latino support, but neither seems to be prioritizing health care in outreach to Latino voters. Regardless of how the midterms turn out, political leaders interested in gaining their Hispanic constituents’ support should focus intensely on maintaining and strengthening programs like Medicaid and marketplace coverage that offer affordable health care to tens of millions of struggling families in America.

Stan Dorn is director of the Health Policy Project at UnidosUs.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *