Voters Rank Health Care as Less Important Issue Than They Did in 2000
Voters ranked health care as the fourth most important issue, behind the economy, terrorism and the war in Iraq, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, Long Island Newsday reports. Researchers surveyed 1,202 people in July about what they considered to be the most important issue in the upcoming 2004 election, and 12% of respondents cited health care, compared with 20% who cited the war on terrorism as the most important. The poll results show a decline since 2000, when voters responded that health care was the second most important issue. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
However, a survey of 1,010 voters conducted by Democracy Corps from August 2-5 showed that 92% of likely voters consider health care to be a "serious economic problem," according to Newsday. The results of the Democracy Corps poll show that "Republican and Democratic voters alike agree ... that health care is still an important issue," Newsday reports. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said, "There's not that much room for health care. [It's] like a side vegetable when you have war and peace and other major social issues on the plate." Gary Burless, a labor economist at the Brookings Institution, said that health care is an "issue that cuts different ways for different people depending on their starting position." He added that neither President Bush's nor Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry's (Mass.) health care proposals gives them a clear advantage in the campaign because of the high costs involved.
Ed Howard, executive vice president of the Alliance for Health Reform said the central issue is the difference between Bush and Kerry's approaches to providing health care to the uninsured. He said, "Democrats can go toward their social welfare scheme and Republicans can go toward their tax credit scheme, but essentially, both can go toward the same goal, which is giving health care to those who don't have it" (Ahn, Long Island Newsday, 8/19).
President Bush has "no plan" to control increasing health care costs, according to a Democratic National Committee television advertisement that began airing Wednesday, the AP/Modesto Bee reports. The DNC independent expenditure office this month is "filling in" with at least $20 million in advertising in 20 "battleground states" and on national cable networks, while Kerry "stays off the air to save money," according to the AP/Bee. In the 30-second advertisement, a woman says, "I've never heard President Bush even talk about [health care costs]." A man adds, "It's like he doesn't know it's a problem." The ad says that health insurance premiums are "skyrocketing four times faster than wages," and notes that 43 million people do not have health insurance.
The ad says that Kerry has a plan to provide tax benefits to small businesses to help provide health insurance and reimburse employers for catastrophic costs, the AP/Bee reports. Bush campaign spokesperson Jennifer Millerwise said that Kerry's "opposition to the president's effort to lower health care costs leave him with little credibility on this issue" (Sidoti, AP/Modesto Bee, 8/17).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Wednesday reported on both presidential candidates' efforts to address issues of interest to veterans, including access to health care and VA hospitals. The segment includes comments from Peter Feaver, professor of political science at Duke University, and Bush (Inskeep, "Morning Edition," NPR, 8/18). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. In addition, NPR's "Day to Day" on Wednesday reported on Kerry's speech Wednesday before a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Ohio, where he discussed health care issues. The segment includes comments from NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams and Kerry (Adams, "Day to Day," NPR, 8/18). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. Expanded NPR coverage is available online.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.