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Healthcare reform not top voter issue: poll

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans who turned out to vote last week dislike healthcare reform but it was not their top concern -- the economy was.

A poll released on Tuesday by the non-profit Kaiser Foundation showed healthcare came only fourth in a list of concerns voiced by people who voted in the congressional elections on November 2.

"When voters were asked in our open-ended question to voice, in their own words, what influenced their vote, they said healthcare was a factor, but not a dominant one," the foundation said in a statement.

With the United States emerging slowly from its worst recession since the 1930s, the economy and jobs were mentioned most often, followed by party preference and the views of candidates.

Then came healthcare, which was mentioned as a "top" concern by just 17 percent of voters.

But a majority of those surveyed -- 59 percent -- voted for Republican candidates and 56 percent said they had a very unfavorable view of the healthcare reforms that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, signed into law in March.

A third said they had a very favorable view of the law.

Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in last week's election and have promised to block the cash needed to implement most of the provisions in the healthcare law.

But Democrats kept control of the Senate and Obama is likely to veto any changes to the law he fought hard for.

SPLIT ELECTORATE

The Kaiser poll found that among all Americans, voters and non-voters, about 40 percent of the public want Congress to expand healthcare reform or leave it as is and 49 percent want to repeal all or part of the law.

"Among mid-term voters, a majority (56 percent) would like to see the law repealed entirely or in part," Kaiser said in a statement.

In its poll, Kaiser telephoned a nationally representative random sample of 1,502 adults, including 1,017 who said they voted in the congressional election.

Separately, the chief executive of health insurer Cigna Corp said that repealing the law would be a waste of time.

"I don't think it's in our society's best interest to expend energy in repealing the law," David Cordani told the Reuters Health Summit in New York. "Our country expended over a year of sweat equity around the formation of it."

A survey by consulting group Mercer found that few employers plan to drop health plans after one of the main provisions of the reforms, the health insurance exchanges, come into effect in 2014.

Most Americans get health insurance through an employer but 47 million do not have any coverage.

A study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday found 59 million Americans -- about a fifth of the population -- went without health insurance for at least part of the beginning of this year.

The health insurance exchanges are designed to make it easier for people to get coverage but critics say the provision will encourage companies to simply drop cover.

Mercer's survey of 2,800 employers found just 6 percent of companies employing 500 or more people said they were likely to drop their health plans after the insurance exchanges come online.

Twenty percent of smaller employers said they were likely to but Mercer said that may be exaggerated.

"If Massachusetts' three-year experience with exchanges is a guide, few will actually do so," Mercer said in a statement.

(Editing by John O'Callaghan)

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