'Healthcare is increasingly a fact-free zone for politicians'

The majority of Americans see healthcare costs as very important to their vote in the midterm elections, which are roughly two months away. Yet healthcare is becoming more of a black box to ballot-casters and political candidates, healthcare policy analyst Paul Keckley, PhD, contends. 

"Healthcare is increasingly a fact-free zone for politicians seeking votes," Dr. Keckley, principal of The Keckley Group, wrote in his Sept. 6 edition of The Keckley Report. His take may be especially pertinent given aggressive spending on political ads ahead of the Nov. 8 midterms, which is set to reach nearly $9.7 billion by Election Day, according to the tracking firm AdImpact, topping the record $9 billion spent in the 2020 presidential election.

Dr. Keckley reasons that facts on healthcare are increasingly inessential to political campaigns and voters by pointing to the following: 

1. Incomprehension of the U.S. healthcare system is acceptable. "Voters do not understand the U.S. system of health. Understanding the U.S. health system is not a competency required of lawmakers who govern it nor employers and consumers who use and pay for it," writes Dr. Keckley. 

2. Voters rely on personal experiences to define U.S. healthcare. The quality of providers, insurers and medications is largely a subjective assessment, which can challenge fact and make for a tricky translation on ballots for healthcare at the state and federal levels. When it comes to providers, "'Good hospitals' are those that accept an individual's insurance and are accessible; affordability matters but all are expensive," Dr. Keckley writes. "'Good doctors' are those that are accessible in person and affable; all are presumed competent." 

3. Public trust in the medical system has fallen. In 2022, 38 percent of Americans said they have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in the medical system, down from 44 percent the year prior and 51 percent in 2020, according to Gallup's longstanding index of confidence in institutions. This runs parallel to decreasing trust in the federal government, Congress, public education and number of other public institutions. When "trusted sources are less trusted," as Dr. Keckley put it, facts are more likely seen as negotiable. 

Find Dr. Keckley's analysis in full here

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