Georgia voters favor Biden on health care issues, poll finds

A poll of likely Georgia voters found that a large majority believe former Vice President Joe Biden will do a better job than President Donald Trump on protecting coverage for pre-existing health conditions and on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The findings are part of a Commonwealth Fund poll on health care issues in what the nonprofit organization calls 10 battleground states, including Georgia.

Likely voters nationally were evenly concerned when expressing their top health issue: addressing public health needs and economic costs of COVID-19 (40 percent) and protecting insurance for people with pre-existing conditions (39 percent). Lowering the cost of health care was the most important issue for 20 percent of the respondents.

The Georgia responses were from 417 likely voters, with a margin of error of 6.1 percentage points. The poll was conducted from Aug. 25 through Sept. 20.

A majority of voters in nine of 10 battleground states said Biden is the more likely of the two candidates to address both COVID-19 and its economic costs. In Ohio, President Trump had a slight edge on the issue.

In each of the 10 states, a majority of likely voters said Biden is more likely to protect insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Likely voters favor Biden over Trump on this issue by between 6 percentage points in Ohio to 33 percentage points in Georgia (63 percent to 30 percent).

Sixty percent of Georgians said Biden is more likely to address COVID-19 and its economic costs, versus 35 percent for Trump.

A poll result focused on health care does not necessarily indicate who is ahead in the overall presidential race, as voters will consider various factors in making their selection. But given the effects of the pandemic, the issue carries considerable weight. A recent AJC poll found Biden and Trump essentially tied in Georgia.

Meanwhile, protecting people’s coverage for pre-existing conditions has become an important issue in the run-up to the Supreme Court’s consideration of a lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The lawsuit was filed by 18 states, including Georgia. The court is scheduled to take it up Nov. 10, a week after the presidential election.

The ACA, passed in 2010, bars insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, charging higher premiums based on health status or gender, revoking coverage when someone gets sick, or imposing annual or lifetime limits. About 54 million people have pre-existing conditions that could have resulted in their being denied coverage in the pre-ACA individual market, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The ACA also created the insurance exchanges in the individual states, which provide coverage for people who don’t get job-based or government coverage. In Georgia, the number of such people enrolled  is more than 400,000.

The recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal who was among those voting to uphold the ACA in 2012, is drawing more attention to the lawsuit. A replacement for Ginsburg is expected to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before the end of the year, and the composition of the court could shift toward a more conservative viewpoint on health care and other issues.

Part of the poll shows Georgia respondents having doubts about the electoral process itself. Just 46 percent said they felt very safe about voting in person – close to the national mark of 48 percent. But only 26 percent of Georgians said they were very confident that people voting by mail in the state would have their votes counted, versus 33 percent nationally.