June 21, 2007 -- A new poll shows health care is the leading domestic issueon voters' minds, second only to Iraq as the most important issue in thenation.
Twenty-one percent of voters in the poll call health care the issue they'dmost like to hear candidates talk about in the 2008 presidential election. Theissue edges out immigration, the economy, and gas prices as voter's topdomestic concerns.
The survey comes as candidates campaign earlier than ever for their parties'nominations. Several candidates -- mostly Democrats -- have released theoutlines of health care plans designed to offer medical insurance to allAmericans.
"We may be on the edge of our next great national debate on healthreform," says Drew Altman, president of the Henry J. Kaiser FamilyFoundation, which conducted the survey.
Stemming health care costs and covering the uninsured have eluded policymakers for decades. But Congress is getting set this summer to debate a hugeexpansion to government insurance programs for children.
Observers are hoping that the debate -- along with pressure from voters --leads lawmakers and the next president to get serious about reforming thehealth care system.
"Only the presidential candidates have the ability to kick off a truenational debate on health," Altman tells WebMD.
Nearly four in 10 of those surveyed said they want to hear candidates talkabout coverage shortages and the uninsured. Close to three in 10 said healthcosts were their No. 1 concern.
A handful of states are pressing ahead with universal coverage plans.Massachusetts is set on July 1 to launch a new program designed to cover allthe state's residents with a mixture of government subsidies,employer-sponsored coverage, and plans purchased by individuals.
Another effort in California faces a vote in the state legislature thissummer.
"If those plans fail it will take a lot of wind out of the sails" ofhealth reform, Altman says.
But few voters seem to have identified a candidate most able to addresshealth care problems. Four in 10 Democrats and nearly seven in 10 Republicanssaid they couldn't or wouldn't name a candidate that best represents theirviews on health care.
For those that did, 33% chose Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. Former NewYork Mayor Rudolph Giuliani led GOP candidates but was only named by 9% ofRepublicans.
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