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POLITICS: Health Care in the 2004 Presidential Election

The New England Journal of Medicine has a Bob Blendon special on politics and the election and it provides the proof in what I said a few weeks back. (And it’s fully available online without payment). Health care is issue #4, after Iraq, the economy and terrorism. But it is enough to cause a few people to change their mind in some swing states, especially if they’re elderly.

There is a wealth of polling data in this study and much collated from several polls. Two particular favorites of mine.

First, Harris has for ever asked the three part question about the health care system a) working pretty well, b) needing fundamental changes and c) needing to be rebuilt completely. Obviously most people are in the middle, but watching the last one go up gives a good idea of the mood for real action. In 1991-3 42% said the system needed complete rebuilding. By 2000 that number was down to 29%. Now it’s back up to 36%. That increase suggests to me that health care will be a very big deal in 2006-10 (depending on the economy of course.

Second, 48% of those polled hate the Medicare bill while only 27% have a favorable impression of it & 25% have no opinion. This is showing up in races in Pennsylvania where the elderly are hopping mad, and once vulnerable Democratic housemembers are riding high and some Republicans are in real trouble.

The WSJ has an interesting report on the impact of Medicare in those races in Pennsylvania and concludes that it’s really hurting the Republicans. Six weeks is a long time in politics. Whether CBS-Kerry own goals can continue to distract from the carnage in Iraq and what some seniors feel will be the coming catastrophe in Medicare is an open question.

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