HEALTHVOTE 2000: California Healthline Readers Identify Election Priorities
In the latest installment of the HealthVote 2000 project, the California HealthCare Foundation has released the results from its Web survey of California Healthline readers. The goals of the survey, which was administered by Cyberdialogue, were threefold: to determine the readership's opinion on a variety of California's health care issues; to assess views on health care policies proposed by presidential candidates from both major parties; and to foster a dialogue about health care among the candidates, health care professionals, media and the public in advance of the state's March 7 primary. The Web survey posed four baseline questions also included in HealthVote 2000's survey of California voters' views on health issues in the primary elections. The survey of state voters was conducted by the Field Institute and released last month. In both surveys, respondents were asked to rank their top two election issues. A summary of the Web survey and a comparison of its results to that of the Field Institute poll are presented here:
- Importance of specific issues: The Web survey revealed that candidates' position on health care will be the "most important" criteria for CHL readers as they head to the polls next Tuesday. While 97% of respondents indicated that health care was an important issue, 54% of those surveyed ranked it as the top issue in this year's election. Among the general public, the Field survey found that a slightly lower number of Californians -- 45% -- ranked health care as their top issue. Education secured the top spot in the Field poll, taking 52% of the votes.
- Medicare proposals: Twenty-three percent of Web respondents ranked Medicare -- defined separately from "health care" -- as the most important issue, a decrease from the 33% of Field poll respondents that ranked it number one. The polls also surveyed respondents' opinion of several Medicare financing proposals. Seventy-nine percent of the CHL respondents favored tying Medicare benefits to each recipient's ability to pay; 69% of California voters surveyed favored the plan. Allocating more of the federal budget to Medicare took the second-most favored spot in both surveys, garnering 55% of the CHL responses and 64% of the voters' responses. Creating a new Medicare tax on all health insurance policies was the least-favored option among CHL respondents (17%), while increasing out-of-pocket expenses to Medicare recipients ranked last among California voters (20%).
- Expanding coverage: Among CHL respondents, allowing low-income individuals to buy into existing government health care programs at a reduced cost won the most support, with 89% favoring the plan -- 46% of this group "strongly" favored the proposal. The Field survey revealed that 88% of California voters favor the plan, with 40% "strongly" favoring it. A slightly lower percentage of respondents favored the expansion of government-funded public health clinics and hospitals, earning 79% of Web respondents' and 82% of voters' support. CHL and Field poll respondents ranked vouchers as a less-favorable option, giving it 66% and 65% of responses, respectively.
- Safety and quality: When asked about health care safety and quality information, the vast majority of CHL respondents deemed it important (84%), but only 51% of them described the availability of this information as "very important." Of California voters, 61% indicated that this information was "very important."
According to CHL readers, meeting children's health care needs should the be the top health-related priority of elected officials. The Cyberdialogue survey revealed that 65% of respondents support affording health care access to sick children regardless of their parents' ability to pay and guaranteeing that California children receive "basic, preventive health care services." Moreover, 62% of respondents indicated that providing all sick Californians with access to health care, "regardless of whether they have insurance or can afford to pay," was a significant issue for elected officials to address. Using an open-ended format, Web survey respondents also were asked what questions they would like to pose to this year's presidential candidates regarding the health care issues they deemed most important. Financial concerns, including health care solvency and the cost of prescription drugs (36%), access issues (33%) and universal health care (31%) are the three top areas of interest.
Opinions of Candidates' Plans
When asked which of the presidential candidates had the "most sound proposals" for improving America's health care system, about 25% chose not to select any candidates, citing lack of knowledge about the proposals and the lack of sound proposals. California Healthline readers who responded to the question indicated that either of the Democratic contenders, Bill Bradley or Al Gore, offer "more sound proposals" for changing specific aspects of the health care system than the GOP candidates. The Republican hopefuls garnered about 13% of support combined for each of the four propositions measured in the survey. Gore's proposals for prescription drug access for seniors (36%), ensuring Medicare's solvency (41%) and ensuring access to specialist care when needed (29%) were supported by the greatest number of respondents. Deemed as having the most sound plan for expanding health care coverage for the uninsured, Bradley garnered 39% of respondents' support. While Texas Gov. George W. Bush emerged as the leading Republican for each of the aforementioned health issues, none of his proposals won more than 8% of respondents' support. Concerning the candidate- specific survey results, Smith said, "It is important to note the number of California Healthline respondents that did not have enough information to select a specific candidate proposal. [HealthVote 2000] will check back in to see if that changes as we move towards the general election in California" (California Healthline HealthVote 2000 Web Survey, 2/00). To access an interview with Mark Smith, click here or type http://www.freedomchannel.com/todays/022300smith.cfm into your browser. For more information on the HealthVote 2000 project, email firstname.lastname@example.org, click here or type http://www.chcf.org/specialprojects/healthvote2000/ into your browser.