Why health care could determine the next president

As the June deadline nears for the Supreme Court’s decision on health care, two recent reports show how the decision could have a direct effect on President Barack Obama’s election.

Gallup has released new survey numbers on how voters link economic issues to candidates – and how voters rank the same issues to party affiliation.

Voters who see themselves as independents say the cost of health care is their biggest economic election issue. Democrats also believe it is health-care costs, while Republicans think it is the growing public debt and deficit.

Among all voters polled, President Obama is seen as stronger than Mitt Romney on “having a handle” on health-care costs.

Last week, data from the 2012 Milliman Medical Index showed that for the first time, the average annual health-care costs, for an insured family of four, exceeded $20,000 per year. (That figure includes costs of payments from family members and employers.)

The cost for an insured family of four has jumped 24 percent in the past four years.

On average, that same family is shelling out $8,584 a year in paycheck deductions, co-payments and out-of-pocket costs.

So the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) up for Supreme Court review resonates with potential voters who may see it as a way to cut health-care costs  – or get more affordable insurance. Or as a sure-fire way to grow the deficit.

Teacher’s corner

The National Constitution Center has developed resources such as lesson plans and activities to support classroom instruction on the 2012 election. For example, in this lesson plan, students are asked to summarize issues important to them in a six-word stump speech–an American election tradition–and contribute to the Address America initiative.

One likely scenario is for the Supreme Court to strike down the provision that forces taxpayers to buy health insurance, leaving in place measures that guarantee people can buy insurance despite having pre-existing medical conditions.

As the Supreme Court’s decision is debated during the election process,  the reaction among independents could be the key.

Independent voters make up about 23 percent of the electorate, according to a Pew Research study, more than enough to a big impact on a tight election.

If President Obama gets high marks from independents for trying to get them health coverage, it could add to his image as the candidate who understands health care.

But a CNN poll in March found that independents were split 50-50 on the Obama health-care plan.

Scott Bomboy is the editor-in-chief of Constitution Daily.

Upcoming Event
On June 6, Jack Balkin of Yale and Randy Barnett of Georgetown will be live at the National Constitution Center to explore the commerce clause and the upcoming Supreme Court decision on health care. Click here for event details. Moderator: John Hockenberry.

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