President Trump’s coronavirus case is one reason healthcare will be the top issue for many voters this year, a UW-Madison professor told a WisPolitics.com event.
“This will certainly impact public appearances and campaign rallies and any future debates that we may have been looking to see,” said Christine Durrance, an associate professor of public affairs at the La Follette Institute. “I think that healthcare is front and center at the 2020 election this year.”
Experts from the UW-Madison La Follette School of Public Affairs on Friday discussed healthcare, the economy, climate change and racial equity and their impact on the upcoming election.
Durrance said many Americans who lost their jobs amidst the pandemic also lost health insurance benefits because their jobs paid for their insurance.
While healthcare has been on the minds of many people because of the pandemic, loss of health insurance will only add to the value people and presidential candidates will assign healthcare.
Plus, the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in November. That, combined with the proposed replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, have placed a high priority on healthcare this election cycle, Durrance said.
Durrance said large portions of the ACA might also be at risk if the Supreme Court rules the individual mandate portion unconstitutional.
“It could mean big impacts for a lot of people, both in terms of the types of access to health care that we have, but also in terms of the millions of people who have gained health insurance coverage from the ACA,” Durrance said.
A professor of public affairs and economics at La Follette, Menzie Chinn, said the important thing to remember about the current pandemic is that it intrexicably links the economy with the health care and public health crisis.
While the United States has seen economic growth over the past few months, indicating a recovery, Chinn said the economy is slowing down. That’s because people are going back to their normal lives, causing more coronavirus infections, causing more economic uncertainty and therefore less growth.
Compared to pre-pandemic data-points indicating economic growth and success, the economy is still in recovery.
“Part of it is the shutdown, which was voluntary, but part of it is that there is this sort of feedback loop between the public health crisis and the economy,” Chinn said. “That is we had this sort of let’s just get it done quickly, get it over with approach to opening up the economy, trying to ignore the fact that you would have this resurgence in cases if you opened up certain sectors of the economy rapidly.”
The constant starting and stopping amongst businesses across our country caused a longer economic recovery.
“Those who argued we would have a V-shaped recovery were essentially dreaming,” Chinn said. “And many people were dreaming that we could just ignore the consequences of the pandemic and just barrel ahead.”
With many federal stimulus and economic protection programs running out, more stagnant economic growth and uncertainty in the markets, the economy will be an important political topic for leaders.
“Who gets into office come January 20th, will have a big impact on the evolution of the economy going forward,” Chinn said. “Depending upon which metric you use, I think the consensus is 2022 first-half [of the fiscal year] GDP gets back to where it would have otherwise been.”
Prof. Gregory Nemet said the issue of climate change will become a bigger topic this election because the number of people who are calling for immediate action to change a long term issue is growing.
“This is a different issue because it’s inherently long term,” Nemet said. “A lot of things are going in the right direction, but we need to move faster and have these solutions move to scale, and that’s really the challenge of our age.”
Many solutions to climate change, like solar energy and battery powered cars, have become more accessible to regular people, helping climate change more attainable, he noted.
And an associate professor of public affairs and economics at La Follette, Gregory Wallace, said poverty will also likely become a major topic of discussion this year as the recession has pushed many people out of jobs.
He is very concerned about the U.S. poverty rate for the near future despite good indicators the overall rate was going down in 2019.
“I don’t want to speculate here, but this is going to be something close to catastrophic,” Wallace said.
The pandemic has also changed the lives of many people who were in the bottom parts of earnings distributions as well as racial and ethnic minorities, Wallace said.
“These things have far reaching implications; we’re losing jobs that aren’t going to come back.” Wallace said. “We’re losing jobs and parts of the country that aren’t going to come back. I think about places like Las Vegas or Disney World.”