Among the top four issues for voters going into the general election on Nov. 8, health care trails only the economy, terrorism and foreign policy according to the Pew Research Center, and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are sharply divided on the issue.
At the center of the debate between the candidates is President Barack Obama's signature 2010 health care law, Obamacare.
Former President Bill Clinton, husband of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, called the health care law "the craziest thing in the world" earlier this month before trying to walk back his comments a day later.
"So you've got this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care and then the people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It's the craziest thing in the world," said the former president, in criticizing the Affordable Care Act which has resulted in rising premiums for middle-class Americans who don't qualify for subsidies.
A day later, however, he would characterize efforts by Republicans to repeal the law — a move supported by the Republican presidential nominee — a "terrible mistake" and softened his critique of the law.
"There is a group of people — mostly small business owners and employees — who make just a little too much money to qualify for Medicaid expansion or for the tax incentives who can't get affordable health insurance premiums in a lot of places. And the reason is they're not in big pools," Clinton said. "So they have no bargaining power."
As a part of her health care plan, Hillary Clinton, according to MedScape, wants to fix Obamacare by building on the working parts of the law and further expand insurance coverage while lowering the costs of exchange-plan premiums and high deductibles.
She wants a government-run health plan or "public option" in every state to compete with private plans in the exchanges and would lower the maximum amount that a person has to contribute toward a premium. She would also create a tax credit of up to $2500 per person or $5000 per family to offset out-of-pocket spending that exceeds 5 percent of income. The Democratic nominee would also lower the age that Americans can buy into Medicare to 55.
She also addressed some of the Obamacare problems during the second presidential debate on Oct. 9 when she was asked by a voter about the rising costs of health insurance premiums.
"I'm going to fix it, because I agree with you. Premiums have gotten too high. Copays, deductibles, prescription drug costs. I've laid out a series of actions that we can take to try to get those costs down," said the Democratic presidential nominee.
"I don't want people to forget when we're talking about reining in the costs, which has to be the highest priority of the next president, when the Affordable Care Act passed, it wasn't just that 20 million got insurance who didn't have it before. But that in and of itself was a good thing. I meet these people all the time, and they tell me what a difference having that insurance meant to them and their families," she said.
"I want very much to save what works and is good about the Affordable Care Act. But we've got to get costs down. We've got to provide additional help to small businesses so that they can afford to provide health insurance. But if we repeal it, as Donald has proposed, and start over again, all of those benefits I just mentioned are lost to everybody, not just people who get their health insurance on the exchange. And then we would have to start all over again," Clinton added.
Trump has consistently pledged to repeal Obamacare if he is elected president and replace it with free-market solutions for uninsured or underinsured Americans.
Health insurers could sell policies across state lines under Trump's plan. The New York City billionaire said this would promote competition. People could also use pretax dollars to purchase coverage and individuals could open health savings accounts under Trump's plan. Open-ended federal contributions to state Medicaid programs with block grants designed to give states more autonomy in spending the money would be allowed as well.
Trump's seven-point plan highlighted on his website which advocates cutting waste and cheaper drug prices would also require price transparency from all healthcare providers, especially doctors and healthcare organizations like clinics and hospitals. He argues that individuals should be able to shop to find the best prices for procedures, exams or any other medical-related procedure.
In addition, the real estate mogul is advocating for the removal of barriers to entry into free markets for drug providers that offer safe, reliable and cheaper products. Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America, he argues. He explains that although the pharmaceutical industry is in the private sector, drug companies provide a public service. He believes allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options.
He is also a proponent of reforming mental health programs.
"Families, without the ability to get the information needed to help those who are ailing, are too often not given the tools to help their loved ones. There are promising reforms being developed in Congress that should receive bi-partisan support," Trump explained on his website.
During the second presidential debate, Trump said, "Obamacare is a disaster. You know it. We all know it. It's going up at numbers that nobody's ever seen worldwide. Nobody's ever seen numbers like this for health care."
"It's only getting worse. In '17, it implodes by itself. Their method of fixing it is to go back and ask Congress for more money, more and more money. We have right now almost $20 trillion in debt," he added.
Trump argued that it was not only too expensive for individuals but for the country.
"It's going to be one of the biggest line items very shortly. We have to repeal it and replace it with something absolutely much less expensive and something that works, where your plan can actually be tailored. We have to get rid of the lines around the state, artificial lines, where we stop insurance companies from coming in and competing, because they want — and President Obama and whoever was working on it — they want to leave those lines, because that gives the insurance companies essentially monopolies. We want competition," Trump argued.
"You will have the finest health care plan there is. She wants to go to a single-payer plan, which would be a disaster, somewhat similar to Canada. And if you haven't noticed the Canadians, when they need a big operation, when something happens, they come into the United States in many cases because their system is so slow. It's catastrophic in certain ways," the New York City real estate mogul explained.