Health Care Expected To Be ‘Dominant Issue’ in 2002 Election Campaigns
Health care issues, such as a Medicare prescription drug benefit, have moved "to the front" of the 2002 election debate on both the federal and state levels, the Baltimore Sun reports. For example, the increased number of elderly voters -- Americans ages 65 and older will account for about 20% of the vote nationwide in the fall 2002 elections -- has led to "renewed attention" to the issue of prescription drugs in campaigns this year. In addition, many voters will face 15% to 20% increases in their health insurance premiums and more than 10% increases in their prescription drug costs this year, which has prompted candidates to address the issues. A "stalemate" in Congress on several "major health initiatives," such as a patients' rights bill and legislation to help the uninsured, also has brought health care to the forefront of campaigns this year. Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes (D), a candidate for re-election this year, said, "Health care is the dominant issue for the foreseeable future in politics." Sarah Bianchi, a consultant on health care policy for Democratic candidates, added, "I can't think of one Senate race that isn't going to include issues of prescription drugs, patients' rights and affordable health care."
In the past, most voters have considered Democratic candidates "better than Republicans at handling health care issues," but the trend may not hold this year, the Sun reports. The Republican-controlled House earlier this year passed a Medicare prescription drug benefit bill, while the Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to pass similar legislation. Rep. Thomas Davis (R-Va.), head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said, "It would be disingenuous for a Democratic candidate to run on (the issue of) prescription drugs against a Republican when they've never done anything on that issue" (West, Baltimore Sun, 8/5).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.