Voters pick Obama to tackle nation's health care problems

Health care - cost and coverage - has been a hot topic among presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 election.

But which candidate has a plan that likely voters believe will make the biggest impact on the toughest health care problems facing the nation? The answer: Obama.

According to a report released today by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, the majority of likely voters polled selected Obama as their top presidential pick to handle the country's biggest health care issues, including the high cost of health insurance, and the millions of U.S. adults and children without insurance.

There was one health care issue that voters age 65 and older felt McCain would be better equipped than Obama to handle: The high cost of prescription medications.

"When it comes to major problems confronting the U.S. health care system, voters tend to split along party lines when asked who they think will do a better job in the White House," says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the National Poll on Children's Health. "We looked in particular at the problem of uninsurance among children, and found a strong party affiliation there too. But among all-important independent voters, Barack Obama had a strong margin over John McCain."

As part of the National Poll on Children's Health, likely voters also identified from a list of five, the top three health care problems facing the nation. Those top three are: High cost of health insurance (80 percent); affordability of prescription drugs (57 percent); and millions of uninsured children (56 percent).

Voters' candidate of choice based on nation's top health care issues:

  • Health insurance is too expensive for families. The vote: McCain (38 percent) / Obama (62 percent)
  • Many people can't afford prescription drugs. The vote: McCain (43 percent) / Obama (57 percent)
  • Millions of children are uninsured. The vote: McCain (35 percent) / Obama (65 percent)
  • Millions of adults are uninsured. The vote: McCain (35 percent) / Obama (65 percent)
  • Some people get lower quality of health care than others. The vote: McCain (38 percent) / Obama (62 percent)

A candidate's position on children's health issues also will greatly impact many American's vote.

"Given the fact that over half the voters say that a candidate's position on children's health care will be an important influence for them on voting day, it certainly looks like health care will be a major issue for voters when it comes to this presidential election," says Davis, associate professor of general pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School, and associate professor of public policy at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

On kids' health issues, the National Poll on Children's Health finds:

  • The majority of Democrats (93 percent) and Independents (69 percent) think Obama would the best candidate to address the issue of children without insurance. Among Republicans, 79 percent believe McCain would be more effective at handling this problem.
  • For likely voters with children in their household, 66 percent says the candidate's position on children's health would influence their vote, compared with 51 percent of households without children.
  • Sixty-one percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Republicans say the candidate's position on children's health issues would affect their vote.

Regardless of the health care problem, the National Poll on Children's Health shows likely voters appear convinced that Obama would do a better job as president than McCain, notes Davis. When it comes to the specific problem of uninsured children, Obama wants to mandate coverage for all children with subsidies for families that can't afford to pay for coverage. McCain wants to give tax credits to families to buy health insurance, but his plan wouldn't mandate coverage.

For more information about the candidates' platforms, visit www.health08.org.

For the complete report and podcast about poll results, visit the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health online at www.med.umich.edu/mott/npch.

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