Many studies and polls place healthcare as the #1 or #2 concern for American voters in this election. The economy is right up there with it, as these two issues are often highly related. This is even more obvious and pressing given COVID-19 and the economic and societal upheaval it’s causing.
Your Vote, Your Health
So let’s take a look at how healthcare impacts the election and how your vote impacts healthcare. The two feed into each other, to some degree creating a self-perpetuating loop. (No big surprise there!)
The relationship between health and voting is both well-researched and reciprocal. “Research shows that the healthier you are, the more likely you are to cast a ballot….” - Barry Burden, a professor of political science and Director of the Elections Research Center at UW-Madison
In turn, there is also research that shows voting can actually make people healthier.
It cannot be stated strongly enough that your vote both directly and indirectly influences healthcare. You can probably see evidence of this in your day-to-day life as well as in the broader healthcare systems in the US. Just remember, your vote:
- Indicates your values and priorities and the kind of society you want to live in.
- Elects representatives that create healthcare public policy and programs.
- Makes decisions on healthcare-related ballot measures.
Health, Healthcare & Voter Engagement
Health on Voting
In a nutshell, it goes like this:
Healthier People = More likely to vote + Require less healthcare = Don’t vote to support healthcare
Yes, this is a very simplified equation describing a vastly more complex situation. But it still holds as a valid generalization. It starts illustrating that endless cycle as well.
Voting on Health
As you can see, voting can have a tremendous effect on health and healthcare. The problem is that the people weighing in on the issues don’t rely on the healthcare mechanisms as much. Therefore, they prioritize other things — like tax reform, social justice, or gun laws — over healthcare.
The key is to break the repeating sequence, that Healthy People Voting equation. It’s absolutely required to inject the voices of other people into the conversation.
Doing so results in a government that’s more representative of everyone in the US, not just the healthy. A more representative government generates more representative legislation that better aligns with the population as a whole. The self-perpetuating loop can spin in this direction, too!
Do you see how your vote carries real power?
A Word on Mental Health
These effects don’t just apply to your physical health. A ton of research shows that happier people are more likely to vote and that active participation in elections can make you happier. Plus, happier people tend to be healthier and healthier people tend to be happier.
Specific Healthcare Initiatives & Your Vote
Voting and health are inextricably intertwined. A change in one will probably cause a change in the other.
But what about specific healthcare measures and programs? What are the critical initiatives that can be affected by the elections? And how does your vote factor in?
Here are the top four:
Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Otherwise known as Obamacare, this program has been the subject of hot debate and repeal attempts since its inception in 2010. This comprehensive program aims to give all Americans access to health insurance — and by extension, healthcare. Without the ACA many people would lose their healthcare. Generally speaking, Republican lawmakers have been trying to get rid of, strip down, greatly reduce or replace the program.
Medicaid provides healthcare to people with low incomes. Millions rely on this program for free or low-cost benefits. Administered jointly between states and the federal government, the Supreme Court approved an optional Medicaid expansion in 2012. This change would bring many more people into the program. However, several states oppose the expansion and haven’t implemented it.
Seniors and people with disabilities across the country depend on Medicare, a federal program, for health coverage and care. The eternal battle in Washington is over its funding/budget and what and who are covered. Republicans and Democrats have differing ideas on how to evolve this huge entitlement program so it’s viable into the future.
This prevailing ordeal is likely to result in several initiatives at some point. Think vaccine approval and dissemination programs, revisions to public safety regulations, changes to travel and trade and so on. COVID-related legislation will probably touch your life for years to come.
Your vote installs legislators and decision-makers where healthcare policies and programs are determined. Your vote also signals how you feel we — as a society — should view the right to health and healthcare.
Health, healthcare and voting are all connected. They’re like levers: You pull on one, you move the others. This means that:
- Healthier people tend to vote more, but because they use the healthcare system less, often don’t support health-promoting representatives or initiatives. They focus their energies and influence on other issues.
- Less healthy people are less likely to vote. Therefore, they and their needs are under-represented in our administration and society.
Your vote matters. It’s what breaks this continual, repetitive circuit that isn’t fairly serving the American people. Casting your vote results in a more representative and participatory government. Your ballot is your statement and action on how you feel about health and healthcare in general as well as specific legislation and policymakers.