Health Care Is On The Minds Of Voters In 2004

As the 2004 election cycle begins, voters expect candidates to address health care issues, according to a new national survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of the American Hospital Assoc. (AHA).


The survey of more than 2,000 Americans found affordable health care has emerged as the country’s leading concern after the economy and jobs, and terrorism and national security. While the majority of polled voters feel the current health care system meets their families’ needs, almost 75{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} feel the current system does not meet the needs of most other Americans. Over 90{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of those polled expect to vote in the November elections. Health care is also becoming increasingly more important to key ‘swing voters’ — the segment that will likely make important decisions on who is elected president and which party controls Congress.

Americans agree that health care is an issue they take to the voting booth. It’s essential people have access to the care they need, when they need it, and the survey results demonstrate how widely held that belief is. Nearly seven in 10 respondents go as far as indicating they would be willing to pay more in federal taxes to assure that every American citizen has health care coverage. That’s why America’s hospitals are calling on all candidates to make health care a priority in the 2004 elections.

To keep health care a part of the electoral dialogue, the AHA will ask every candidate running for national office to support seven specific principles. The principles are building blocks of a health care system that would provide affordable, equitable coverage for everyone’s basic health care needs. They are:

1. No child should be without health care. America must commit to a health care system that guarantees health insurance coverage by 2008 for every child under the age of 18.
2. No American should become impoverished due to a major illness or injury. America must commit to providing catastrophic health insurance coverage for all who face a significant health crisis.
3. Every American deserves access to emergency medical services regardless of ability to pay. America must commit to guaranteed government funding of hospital emergency room and trauma care, as well as ensure access to anyone requiring emergency medical care and women in active labor.
4. Poor and older Americans must be ensured continued access to high-quality hospital care. America must commit to adequate Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for hospitals, physicians, and other providers, and Congress must not reduce Medicare or Medicaid spending to reduce the federal deficit.
5. Remove barriers to coordinating health care for all Americans, especially the chronically ill. America must commit to providing coverage for case management and other chronic-care-management services under all forms of insurance, not just managed care, and in doing so reduce the duplication and inefficiencies in care delivery.
6. All Americans deserve high-quality health care. America must commit to supporting public and private partnerships for performance improvement and invest in information technologies that improve quality of care.
7. Every American should have access to important preventive care. America must commit to ensuring that critical preventive services are available for every child and every adult through public- and private-sector initiatives.

The AHA poll found that voters feel strongly about access and coverage, with a majority of respondents advocating that every citizen have access to health care, children have health coverage, and Americans have access to preventive care services. Prescription drug coverage for seniors and choice of physician are also issues important to voters.

Dick Davidson is president of the American Hospital Assoc., a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals. Members includes almost 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks, and other providers of care, as well as 37,000 individual members. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, see www.aha.org.