Healthcare costs a top concern for Republican and Democratic voters

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2016 Health Care Outlook

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans want to know what the next U.S. president will do to lower their rising healthcare costs, a priority shared by Republican and Democratic voters and second only to keeping the country safe, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll.

In all, 62 percent of people surveyed said they would want to know about a presidential candidate's plan for reducing healthcare costs, according to the online poll conducted Dec. 14-18.

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While Republican and Democratic candidates are worlds apart on how to address healthcare, poll results show roughly the same proportion of Republican voters, or 62 percent, view it as a priority compared with 67 percent of Democrats, highlighting their frustration with rising drug prices, insurance premiums and deductibles ahead of the 2016 vote.

The only topic that attracted more interest was national security, as 67 percent wanted to know more about how presidential candidates planned to keep the country safe.

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Healthcare costs a top concern for Republican and Democratic voters
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 15: A person walks into the UniVista Insurance company office where people are signing up for health care plans under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, on December 15, 2015 in Miami, Florida. Today, is the deadline to sign up for a plan under the Affordable Care Act for people that want to be insured on January 1, 2016. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
House Health subcommittee member Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., questions Dr. Mandy Cohen, chief of staff, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, during a hearing on the state of Obamacare's CO-OP Program, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. The argument at the hearing was the Obama administration's most direct response to a wave of seven co-ops closing in Oct., 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
US President Barack Obama speaks about healthcare reforms and the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, during the Catholic Hospital Association Conference in Washington, DC, June 9, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks during Catholic Hospital Association Conference in Washington on Tuesday, June 9, 2015. Obama defended the health care overhaul just days ahead of an anticipated decision by the Supreme Court that could eliminate health care for millions of people. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather in front of the U.S Supreme Court during a rally March 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of King v. Burwell that could determine the fate of health care subsidies for as many as eight million people. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Protestors hold placards challenging 'Obamacare' outside of the US Supreme Court on March 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The US Supreme Court faces a momentous case Wednesday on the sweeping health insurance reform law that President Barack Obama wants to leave as part of his legacy. The question before the court is whether the seven million people or more who subscribed via the government's website can obtain tax subsidies that make the coverage affordable. A ruling is expected in June. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather in front of the U.S Supreme Court during a rally March 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of King v. Burwell that could determine the fate of health care subsidies for as many as eight million people. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, returns to his office after the House voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. The Republican-controlled House voted along party lines to repeal the health care law that stands as President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement, but this time the bill carried instructions for several committees to replace "Obamacare" with new policies. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is unlikely to pass, and even if it does, Obama has threatened a veto. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
A graph and details on health care costs and the Affordable Care Act are seen in President Barack Obama's new $4 trillion budget plan that was sent to Congress today, on Capitol Hill in Washington, early Monday, Feb. 02, 2015. The fiscal blueprint, for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, seeks to raise taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations and use the extra income to lift the fortunes of families who have felt squeezed during tough economic times. Republicans, who now hold the power in Congress, are accusing the president of seeking to revert to tax-and-spend policies that will harm the economy while failing to do anything about soaring spending on government benefit programs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, opens a meeting of the House Rules Committee as the panel prepares a bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, that is scheduled to go to the floor this week, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Feb. 02, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas, left, joined by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., right, testifies as the House Rules Committee prepares a bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, that is scheduled to go to the floor this week, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. Burgess, a medical doctor, is a member of the House Subcommittee on Health which has jurisdiction in matters of health insurance. Pallone is the top Democrat on the Health Subcommittee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
FILE - In this file photo taken with a fisheye lens April 6, 2013, Arkansas legislators meet in the House chamber at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. Arkansas Gov. A wave of newly elected Republican lawmakers who ran on vows to fight so-called Obamacare, including the state’s “private option” Medicaid expansion, has raised doubts about the future of a leading model for conservative states to gradually adapt to the federal health care law. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, a member of the House Rules Committee, makes a point as the panel prepares a bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, that is scheduled to go to the floor this week, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks to the Catholic Hospital Association Conference at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, Tuesday, June 9, 2015. Obama declared that his 5-year-old health care law is firmly established as the "reality" of health care in America, even as he awaits a Supreme Court ruling that could undermine it. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
US President Barack Obama speaks about healthcare reforms and the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, during the Catholic Hospital Association Conference in Washington, DC, June 9, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Five-year-old James Cook of Cleveland, Ohio, participates in a rally to support the Affordable Care Act in front of the U.S Supreme Court March 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of King v. Burwell that could determine the fate of health care subsidies for as many as eight million people. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
FILE - In this March 25, 2015, file photo, Margot Riphagen, of New Orleans, wears a birth control pills costume as she protests in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, as the court heard oral arguments in the challenges of President Barack Obama's health care law requirement that businesses provide their female employees with health insurance that includes access to contraceptives. Some insurance plans offered on the health marketplaces violate the law’s requirements for women’s health, according to a new report from a women’s legal advocacy group. The National Women’s Law Center analyzed plans in 15 states over two years and found some excluded dependents from maternity coverage, prohibited coverage of breast pumps or failed to cover all federally approved birth control methods. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather in front of the U.S Supreme Court during a rally March 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of King v. Burwell that could determine the fate of health care subsidies for as many as eight million people. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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Fifty-four percent wanted to know their plan for creating more jobs, 42 percent were interested in plans for education reform and 31 percent in how they would deal with climate change.

U.S. employers have been shifting more health coverage costs onto workers, particularly through high deductible health insurance plans, which can reach $6,600 in out of pocket costs for an individual and $13,200 for a family before insurance kicks in. Many of these changes have been ushered in with President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, as well as recent sharp increases in some prescription drug costs.

"I'm on Obamacare, and it's a horrible situation," said Fred Voeltner, 64, who was laid off in 2009 and now pays for his own insurance. He is frustrated by how far he has to travel for care and how much more he has to pay each visit. "I'm open-minded," he said. "But I expect to vote for a Republican."

About 40 percent of people polled by Reuters/Ipsos said their healthcare costs rose in the past year, compared with 46 percent who said the costs were about the same and 13 percent who saw a decline. More than 30 percent spent more on prescriptions than last year.

"The growth in out of pocket costs, especially the gradual growth in deductibles, comes at a time when their wages are flat," said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that the average deductible for individuals was $1,318 this year compared with $917 in 2010.

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont have vowed to remedy rising drug prices in their campaigns. Republican candidates have emphasized plans to repeal Obama's Affordable Care Act, which they blame for raising premiums and other costs.

"Premiums are going through the roof, deductibles are so high that unless you're close to death you're not going to "I will go to Congress and we will repeal every word of Obamacare," Republican rival, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, told a crowd in Mechanicsville, Virginia, on Friday.

Republican strategists said party candidates are more focused on national security and the economy as dominant issues, noting they have little to gain by offering a detailed plan to tackle healthcare costs that could run up against major business interests, including the pharmaceutical industry.

"Republican candidates generally stay between the guard rails of 'Obamacare is bad and should be repealed' and 'We need to let the market work.' More specificity than that will certainly produce consequences that none of them want to discuss right now," said Republican strategist Reed Galen.

SEE ALSO: Obama lashes out at Trump amid low approval ratings

During a debate on Saturday, Clinton credited Obamacare with expanding benefits to 17 million Americans but said she would have to fix some "glitches," referring to the rising costs. Republicans have since attacked her for trying to downplay the impact of such costs on Americans.

Clinton proposed more oversight of health insurers, a $5,000 tax credit for people struggling with medical expenses and allowing the government's Medicare program for the elderly to negotiate for lower drug prices.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll surveyed 1,639 adults with a credibility interval of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

(Reporting by Jilian Mincer in New York and Erin McPike in Washington, additional reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Michele Gershberg, Chris Kahn and Alistair Bell)

SAP is the sponsor of this coverage which is independently produced by the staff of Reuters News Agency.

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