Washington Insiders See Health Care Issues Ranking High In Next Congress
Health care and prescription drugs will be major issues in the next Congress, but less important than the overall economy and national security, according to a survey of association executives and lobbyists.
In a survey commissioned by the Health Insurance Association of America, 28% of so-called “Washington insiders” identify “health care and prescription drugs” as a priority item of the President and Congress.
This item ranks significantly above “taxes and spending,” which comes in at 13%, and “education,” cited by 12%.
However, it falls far below “the economy and jobs,” which comes in at 74%, and “terrorism and national security,” which is cited by 58%.
Still, nearly 75% of those surveyed cite rising health care costs as an “important” concern for voters in the Nov. 5 election.
“The beginning of the 2004 presidential election jockeying, combined with double-digit increases in health care spending and the resulting increase in the number of uninsured Americans, will thrust health care issues into the public spotlight in the months ahead,” says HIAA President Donald Young, who spoke at a press briefing.
The survey was conducted by Alexandria, Va.-based Public Opinion Strategies. Bill McInturff, a partner with the firm, says several specific health care issues are seen as likely to receive legislative attention.
These include adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, expanding childrens health insurance programs, passing a tax incentive for long-term care insurance, passing a patients bill of rights that does not include the right to sue health plans, mental health parity and capping medical malpractice awards.
However, McInturff says, the Washington insiders responding to the survey indicate skepticism that any of these legislative issues will become law.
“It appears that opinion leaders believe that more legislative stalemate will be the rule of the day in the next two years,” he says.
Perhaps surprisingly, McInturff says, Republicans give a couple of key health care issues a higher chance of passing Congress than do Democrats.
He says that 49% of the Republicans responding to the survey cite a Medicare prescription drugs benefit as likely to pass, compared with only 39% of Democrats.
As for expansion of childrens health insurance programs, 35% of Republicans see that as likely to pass Congress, compared with 26% of Democrats.
More generally, the Washington insiders expect the Republicans to maintain control of the House, but they see the Senate as a toss-up, McInturff says.