How the results of the 2022 midterms may affect health policy

December 21, 2022 – Congress is likely to remain gridlocked on public health issues for the next two years, with a Democratically controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled House of Representatives pursuing vastly different health priorities. That’s the conclusion of an article on the implications of the 2022 midterm election by experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on December 19.

Co-authors Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis, Emeritus; and John Benson, former senior research scientist in the Department of Health Policy and Management, examined the results of three types of polls to determine the viewpoints of voters and gauge their effect on public officials. Among them was a 2022 national exit poll; a national poll conducted by Harvard Chan School at the time of the election; and a selection of other polls on health issues conducted within the last two years.

The authors found dramatic splits between Democrats and Republicans, which will likely be reflected in the policies pursued by elected officials of those parties. Abortion was a major issue in the election, especially among Democratic voters, who oppose stricter laws and advocate for a nationwide law legalizing the procedure in all or most cases. While abortion is likely to continue to be a hot topic of debate in the states, no national law will be enacted, the authors predicted. Likewise, despite Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act, Democratic support will ensure the law stays intact, they wrote.

The importance of inflation and economic issues to voters, especially Republicans, will mean that Republican politicians are likely to resist any attempt to increase funding for public health policies, according to the authors. Even so, Republicans are unlikely to make cuts to Medicare given the popularity of the program. The authors also predicted that the Republican-led House will pursue investigations into the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and block future pandemic funding.

On a small number of issues, including prescription drug prices and telemedicine, some bipartisan compromise might be possible, the authors said.

Read the NEJM article: The Implications of the 2022 Election Outcome for Health Policy