ELECTION: Health Care Tops Voters’ Priority Lists
With the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries fast approaching, a recently released survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that more than one in four, or 28%, of registered voters cited health care as a top issue. The survey of 1,257 randomly-selected registered voters was conducted between Dec. 3-13. When asked what would most influence their choice between the candidates, 36% cited the candidates' stand on the issues. Nearly one- quarter, 24%, indicated the candidates' leadership abilities will influence their decision; the same amount indicated that the candidates' moral values will influence them. The survey identified a subset of respondents as "health care voters," voters who indicated health care or Medicare as one of their top two concerns in their vote for president. Of those health care voters, 61% were women. Nearly two-thirds of health care voters identified health care costs, the uninsured and patients' rights as their main concerns. Those voters tended to be under 50 years of age. The remaining one-third chose Medicare and those voters tended to be over age 50. Robert Blendon, professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, said, "For 'health care voters' the year 2000 election is not about a single issue. Rather, their vote revolves around candidates' stands on getting the uninsured coverage, making Medicare financially sound, providing coverage of prescription drugs for seniors, and protecting consumers' rights in HMOs and other managed care plans."
Dems vs. GOP
Overall, health care tended to be a higher priority for Democrats, 33%, than Republicans, 23%. Democrats gave higher priority than Republicans on specific issues such as the uninsured, 56% to 33%, respectively, and providing seniors with prescription drug coverage, 63% to 47%, respectively. However, when asked which candidate would best handle health care issues, 28% chose GOP frontrunner George W. Bush, followed by Vice President Al Gore, 21%, Bill Bradley 12% and Sen. John McCain, 7%. The survey found that 47% of Democratic registered voters say Gore would better handle health care issues, compared to 23% who chose Bradley. While both candidates have snipped at each other's proposals -- Gore calling Bradley's too costly and Bradley saying Gore's would not cover as many people -- the survey found that more Democratic voters say that Gore's plan would cover more people than Bradley's, 31% to 14%, respectively, while slightly more view Gore's plan as more expensive, 23% to 19%, respectively. Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said, "While the press and policy people have focused on the differences between the Gore and Bradley health care proposals, the public has yet to tune in." Nearly 50% of Democrats indicated that they did not know enough to distinguish between the two plans. While the survey showed wide support for expanding coverage to the uninsured, no consensus was reached on how to proceed. Even if it cost taxpayers more, 64% of Democrats favored Bradley's plan to require parents to buy health insurance for their children and 59% favored Gore's plan to expand Medicaid and CHIP (KFF release, 1/19).