In a tight race, last year's Medicare reform law could affect this year's presidential election, as well as close congressional elections, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. In a telephone survey of 1,223 Medicare beneficiaries between June 16 and July 21, 28% said the law would affect their vote for president -- 12% would be more likely to vote for Democratic nominee John Kerry, 5% for President Bush and 3% for another candidate, while 8% were uncertain how their vote would be affected. About 38% of respondents said the Medicare law would influence their votes in congressional races, with 20% more likely to vote Democratic, 8% more likely to go Republican and 2% for a third-party candidate; again, 8% were uncertain.
After Labor Day, if voters view the leading candidates as tied on the major issues -- the economy, terrorism and Iraq -- voters will consider second-tier concerns, such as healthcare, in choosing a president, said Robert Blendon, a health policy professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. In 2000 and 2002, Democrats carried the senior vote, Blendon said. Medicare beneficiaries are expected to represent about 20% of voter turnout this year, he said. Almost half of the Medicare beneficiaries surveyed had unfavorable views of the Medicare law, while about one-fourth viewed it favorably, the report said. "Healthcare is not a dominant factor in this election, but it could be in a close race," said Drew Altman, president and chief executive officer of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Read the report. -- by Jeff Tieman