Health Care Costs a Top Issue For Kentuckians, Poll Says

A large majority of Kentuckians want state leaders to make the reduction of health care costs a top priority, according to a Kentucky Health Issues Poll released this week.

Released less than a week before Election Day, the poll found that 83 percent of Kentucky adults said it’s important for policymakers to work to reduce the cost of health care. Eighty-one percent of the poll’s respondents said it’s important to improve the health of Kentuckians.

Health care has been a key issue in the governor’s race, with the candidates focused on the state’s implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. Kentucky was one of a dozen states to fully establish its own health care exchange — called Kynect — and it also expanded Medicaid.

The implementation of those programs under Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration have drawn praise from ACA supporters, but criticism from the legislation’s opponents — particularly over the cost of the Medicaid expansion. More than 500,000 Kentuckians have signed up for health insurance through the ACA.

But Kentuckians have been divided over the law. In January, a Kentucky Health Issues Poll found that the ACA was viewed favorably by 39 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 41 percent. In the same poll, 51 percent of respondents said they didn’t have enough information on how the ACA affected them personally.

Republican candidate Matt Bevin has said he would attempt to rollback  the state’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and replace Kentucky’s health insurance exchange with the federal marketplace. He has said he would target low-income individuals’ health by creating policies that grow the economy, jobs and incomes.

Democratic candidate Jack Conway would keep Kynect and Medicaid expansion. He said it’s important to ensure that Kentuckians stay insured.

Independent candidate Drew Curtis opposes repealing Kynect, the state’s health care exchange, at this time, according to his campaign website. Curtis has said he would rely on experts to complete an audit of Kynect’s functionality to see what can be improved before ordering changes. He also supports a statewide smoking ban.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll released this week found that health was topped as a priority for Kentuckians only by economy (91 percent),  K-12 public education (90 percent) and jobs (89 percent).

But 88 percent of Democrats said that reducing the cost of health care was extremely or very important, compared to 78 percent of Republicans. And 91 percent of Democrats said improving the health of Kentucky residents was extremely or very important, compared to 71 percent of Republican.

The poll was released by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

KHIP was conducted between Sept. 17 and Oct. 7. Researchers from the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati interviewed 1,608 adults throughout Kentucky by telephone.

Kentucky voters choose the next governor on Tuesday.

Ja'Nel Johnson

Ja'Nel Johnson is the health reporter at WFPL News.