The latest Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll: Election 2008 finds that health care has crept up in importance as an election issue in recent months among a key voting group: political independents, who ranked it as highly as Democrats did in this poll. Roughly one in four (26%) independents rank health care as one of the top issues they would “most like to hear the presidential candidates talk about.” Health care’s importance has risen among independents by eight percentage points since April. At the same time, health care has dropped even further down Republicans’ priority list (now mentioned by 11%, a new low) and stayed roughly stable among Democrats (25%).
Amidst the collapse of some of the country’s financial institutions and the subsequent government interventions, the economy overwhelmingly ranks as one of the top issues voters want to hear about from the candidates, claiming a majority among independents (54%) as well as among Republicans (55%) and Democrats (59%). Iraq remains an important election issue for one in four voters overall (25%) and health care has returned to third place (21%) as gas prices have declined slightly as an issue (down from 25% in June to 19%). It should be noted that the poll reflects responses from September 8 through 13, before the worst of the financial crisis became public.
Recent economic events are having a real impact on Americans’ pocketbooks: More than six in ten say they are experiencing at least one “serious problem” from a list of specific economic challenges, up slightly from last month (63%, up from 58%). The number of Americans reporting a serious problem “paying for health care and health insurance” rose six percentage points from just one month ago and now stands at 30 percent.
The survey also asked voters their perspective on which candidate could best address a variety of health-related challenges currently facing the nation. Although the proportion of voters who say Senator McCain would do more to expand coverage and address affordability has risen slightly since August (each are up four percentage points to 19 percent and 24 percent respectively), Senator Obama is still chosen by a majority of voters on these two key issues. A plurality of voters also say Senator Obama would lower the federal budget deficit, a proportion that has grown somewhat since August. Voters are split on who would do more to lower overall national health expenditures, with one-quarter (24 percent) undecided.
When asked about how different groups would be helped by the candidates’ plans, majorities say Senator Obama’s plan would be better for low-income Americans, the uninsured, children and working families. Senator Obama’s plan is also viewed by a plurality as better for the elderly, while Senator McCain’s plan is viewed by pluralities as better for health insurance companies and employers.
On health care reform, the American people are too often offered two extremes – government-run health care with higher taxes or letting the insurance companies operate without rules. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe both of these extremes are wrong, and that’s why they’ve proposed a plan that strengthens employer coverage, makes insurance companies accountable and ensures patient choice of doctor and care without government interference.
The Obama-Biden plan provides affordable, accessible health care for all Americans, builds on the existing health care system, and uses existing providers, doctors and plans to implement the plan. Under the Obama-Biden plan, patients will be able to make health care decisions with their doctors, instead of being blocked by insurance company bureaucrats.
Under the plan, if you like your current health insurance, nothing changes, except your costs will go down by as much as $2,500 per year.
If you don’t like your health insurance, or you don’t have health insurance, you will have a choice of new, affordable health insurance options.
Make Health Insurance Work for People and Businesses – Not Just Insurance and Drug Companies.
• Require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions so all Americans regardless of their health status or history can get comprehensive benefits at fair and stable premiums.
• Create a new Small Business Health Tax Credit to help small businesses provide affordable health insurance to their employees.
• Lower costs for businesses by covering a portion of the catastrophic health costs they pay in return for lower premiums for employees.
• Prevent insurers from overcharging doctors for their malpractice insurance and invest in proven strategies to reduce preventable medical errors.
• Make employer contributions more fair by requiring large employers that do not offer coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of their employees health care.
• Establish a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public plan based on benefits available to members of Congress that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health coverage.
• Ensure everyone who needs it will receive a tax credit for their premiums.
Reduce costs and save a typical American family up to $2,500 as reforms phase in:
• Lower drug costs by allowing the importation of safe medicines from other developed countries, increasing the use of generic drugs in public programs and taking on drug companies that block cheaper generic medicines from the market
• Require hospitals to collect and report health care cost and quality data
• Reduce the costs of catastrophic illnesses for employers and their employees.
• Reform the insurance market to increase competition by taking on anticompetitive activity that drives up prices without improving quality of care.
Healthcare matters. Ask someone uninsured or underinsured!