In an election where economic woes dominate the conversation and health care platforms are discussed in terms of polarity rather than specifics, it is easy to see how the importance of the female vote when it comes to matters of health is undervalued.
But it shouldn’t be. After all, women make two-thirds of health care decisions and are consistently health care voters. They also constitute a key swing vote—60 percent of undecided voters are women.
In advance of the upcoming election and on the eve of the next presidential debate, the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease and two leading political pollsters, Brenda Wigger of Voter/Consumer Research and Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, released these and other results of a large poll exploring the attitudes of female and male votes regarding health care and the presidential election.
The survey of 1500 likely voters found that while the economy was the number one major issue men and women care about, health care was the second issue in line, especially for women. As the discussion moved from macro global issues to personal and family issues, health care was the top personal concern, beating out terrorism, energy, Iraq, and so many other issues.
Candidates, are you listening?
What’s more, the target voter, the independent female voter (I count myself in this population), is especially focused on health care—65 percent of female voters say it is the major or one of the major issues in the presidential election.
While I found all of the results interesting, as a young woman, an independent voter, and a patient with multiple chronic diseases, some of the ones highlighted in today’s press conference call were especially resonant. Not only did 83 percent of voters express familiarity with chronic disease, indicating a marked increase in awareness of chronic disease, but when given a long list of items on a health care agenda, treating and preventing chronic disease is at the top of this list. That means chronic disease factors more prominently than such hot button issues as electronic medical records or medical malpractice.
Policy makers, are you listening?
As I know all too well, managing health is a costly endeavor. These days I flirt with postponing appointments and tests to save money, and spend more time paying and filing medical bills than I do any other kind. The fear of losing existing health insurance and the rising cost of health care that is the number one issue for me in this election—indeed the number one issue in most of my personal and household decisions—is also an especially intense concern among younger female voters polled(defined as women under 50).
So I can claim solidarity with these likely voters on so many levels: chronic disease is the dominant issue in health care (remember, 130 million Americans have at least one chronic condition and it costs us $1.1 trillion annually in lost productivity); like most likely voters I am insured but not confident in my coverage; and like 92 percent of voters, I believe that early diagnosis, education, and prevention of chronic disease will make a difference.
Despite the recent crisis on Wall Street, increasing energy prices, and so many other strains, many voters polled supported increasing access to health insurance to all Americans even if it meant raising taxes, even if those dreaded words “federal government” were involved. Since access to insurance means access to education and prevention, that says a lot about our priorities.
Health care reformers, are you listening?
Most voters surveyed didn’t think health care is enough of an issue in the presidential campaign. I agree, and like so many of them, I see this election as a real opportunity to address it.
For what it’s worth, being a younger chronically ill patient who cannot afford to lose my health insurance, someone who is in no way a desirable candidate for insurers, means Barack Obama’s health care platform is more appealing to me. In short, the mix of existing private insurance and expanded government programs for those without access is a much better position for me than the free market would be. Check out their platforms and make your own informed personal decision.
More than anything else, timing is critical here. The female voter matters so much in this election, and chronic disease is what matters most to this important demographic when it comes to health care. It’s time to make our vote count, and it’s time for our leaders to demonstrate that when it comes to chronic disease and prevention, they are listening.