Health Care and the Candidates in the 2018 Midterm Elections: Key Issues and Races

To identify races in which health care was a key topic in the campaigns as well as a point of difference between the candidates, we scanned coverage of candidate debates, speeches, and platforms following state primaries. These tables highlight our findings for Governor and Senate races along with key ballot measures. Our goal was to identify where health care is a hot topic, but not to rank health care as an issue for voters.

The tables above aggregate information on health policy issues that are salient in statewide political races (Governor and Senate) or ballot measures in the 2018 midterm elections. The selected issues do not represent the universe of health policy topics discussed in 2018 campaigns but were chosen to highlight issues on which the candidates were more likely to differ. The order of the columns does not reflect the importance of the topics. Highlighted states indicate those considered “toss-up” races or most likely to flip parties, based on Cook Political Report ratings current as of October 19, 2018.

The sources for the tables are media reports and political advertisements and statements collected during the midterm general election season, through October 19, 2018. The cited reports include only those after a given race’s primaries, in an effort to present candidates’ most current positions. Thus, the timeframes vary by state and race.

Media sources were collected through a two-part process: first, a daily scan of 10 newsletters (including the Washington Post’s “The Health 202” and Morning Consult’s “Health”) for coverage of health care in key statewide midterm races; second, a state-by-state internet search across four topic areas (Medicaid, Affordable Care Act, single payer, and reproductive health, as well as their sub-topics) to capture media reports on races that may not have risen to the level of national coverage. Candidates’ campaign websites were generally not used as primary sources but as a check against positions presented in the media.

For the Governor and Senate tables, sources prompted check marks for a health care issue if they described differences between candidates on that issue or characterized the issue as important to the race. Issues did not receive check marks solely for appearing on a candidate’s campaign website or in a media report’s list of candidate positions. Rather, they received check marks for rising to the level of discussion in the campaign. This discussion took the form of media sources describing differences in candidates’ positions, a candidate’s political advertisement attacking an opponent’s position and presenting an alternative view, or media sources describing candidates’ changes in position.

Ballot Measures

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The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.