New York Times Examines Impact of Health Care Costs, Other Economic Issues on Middle-Income Voters
The New York Times on Sunday examined how middle-income U.S. residents' perceptions of whether they are economically "squeezed" will affect the upcoming election, with health care costs playing a central role in the debate. According to the Times, which interviewed people at an amusement park in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., a sample of middle-income U.S. residents offered a "mixed picture" of public opinion on the economy and the effect of health care costs on their overall economic well-being. Many people interviewed agreed with Democrats' contentions that middle-income people are not keeping up with escalating costs for such needs as health care and college tuition. In addition, with "growing numbers of companies" failing to offer health insurance "at all, ... health care costs and health insurance present the clearest case of 'middle-class squeeze,'" according to the Times. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that the percentage of full-time workers who participate in employee health insurance plans fell to 56% in 2003, from 80% in 1990.
This decline in health care coverage is exacerbated by rising medical costs coupled with declining hourly wages in the past year after accounting for inflation, the Times reports. Both President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) have offered plans for reforming the U.S. health care system. The Times notes that their different approaches to the issue "represen[t] one of the sharpest contrasts" between the candidates' campaign platforms (Andrews, New York Times, 8/1).