Health Care Could Be ‘Decisive’ Issue in November Elections, Columnist Says
Given the increasing number of uninsured Americans, double-digit health cost increases and Congress' inability to pass Medicare prescription drug benefit legislation, health care could be a "decisive" issue in some races during the coming election, according to Wall Street Journal columnist Albert Hunt. Hunt notes that Democratic pollster Peter Hart found prescription drugs are a "main voting issue for seniors," and more than three-quarters of seniors said they would vote for a candidate who supports legislation allowing the reimportation of drugs from Canada. But despite voters' concerns about health care issues, Democrats "fear" that other issues such as "talk of war" with Iraq, will dominate domestic issues this election, Hunt says. Republicans believe that a large ad campaign by the pharmaceutical industry will "neutraliz[e]" the prescription drug issue. Hunt notes that although the Senate failed to pass a prescription drug benefit this summer, lead negotiators from both parties were close to a compromise deal. But as the elections get closer, "high stakes" are involved in the prescription drug issue, and congressional leaders from both parties are "cool to any deal," Hunt says. Democrats, expressing concern that the compromise bill does not go "far enough," do not want to "rob themselves" of an election issue, while Republicans, saying that the compromise costs too much, do not want to "undercut" candidates who have "champion[ed]" more modest alternatives, Hunt writes. Regardless of the results in November, health care as an issue "won't go away," Hunt concludes (Hunt, Wall Street Journal, 9/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.