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Importance of Voting on Items That May Impact Your Health Care

Written by 
Katee Fletcher
Reviewed by 
Laolu Fayanju, MD

Article at a glance

  • Health care is an important topic when it comes to election times and voting as a patient’s vote can directly impact their health and wellbeing.

  • Local elections impact decisions in the health care industry more than one may think. Learn more below about local candidates, their power over local health departments, and how one can get involved in their community.

  • There are many ways one can register to vote whether they’re online, in-person, or over the phone. Learn more below about voter registration and how to become an eligible voter in one’s community.

Why Health Care is Important to Consider During Elections

The purpose of voting in any election is to support and select a candidate that best represents one’s values and what they feel will benefit their town, state, or country. When a person is elected into office, they hold power to create, reinforce, or alter laws that impact the daily lives of the general population. In an article by the University Health Services at the University of Wisconsin — Madison, the author stated, The impacts of voting and political decisions touch nearly every facet of daily life, from safety, to housing, to education, and even our health.” This statement couldn’t be more accurate as those in office are able to make decisions that ripple throughout our nation.

When specifically looking at how voting and healthcare interact, the most prevalent example one can speak of is the federally funded healthcare program known as Medicare. Standard Medicare plans and Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are reviewed and changed each year based on what elected officials see necessary to better the nation. Not to mention, the funding for national healthcare is about $934 billion— a lot of money to allot and make decisions over. The amount of power elected officials hold over decisions that impact our wellbeing is the main reason why healthcare is essential to consider during local, statewide, or national elections. In fact, in a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), the KFF uncovered that the number one issue driving voters to the polls in 2020 was health care. 26% of all voters claimed that a candidate’s stance on health care was the primary indicator guiding who they voted for.

Voting empowers the public to support, stand behind, and advocate for officials that align with what they feel is best for the country, including the healthcare initiatives one feels would be most beneficial for themselves and the nation at large. The power voters hold is why consistent civic engagement and voting has a significant impact on health outcomes and the health of communities.

How Local Elections Impact Decisions on Healthcare

While 55–60% of eligible voters head to the polls for national elections, only about 20% of eligible voters participate in their local and state elections. A variety of reasons may discourage voters from engaging in their local elections. However, their votes on governors, mayors, and more play a significant role in deciding who controls many decisions on local healthcare proposals and budgets. Some of the most important candidates to keep an eye on in one’s area include:

  • Governor: As chief executive officers of their states, governors oversee state laws and the operation of the state executive branch. Overarchingly, they handle the pursuit and revisions of various policies and programs, some involving health care such as expanded Medicaid coverage, prescription drug policies, mental health initiatives, and more. 

  • State Legislator: State Legislators decide where tax dollars should be allocated while also working to change laws or pass new ones. Being the one to determine where funds are spent is to play a crucial role in funding for large health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

  • Mayor: As chief executive officer of a city, Mayors often oversee the departments working to provide city services, such as health departments. 

  • City Council Member: Working as local legislators, city council members act as a connector between appointed officials and the public. They often review annual budgets, establish tax rates, borrow funds, pass ordinates, regulate public health and safety, and more. In tandem with these responsibilities, they also hold power to manage the appointed officials that run local health services.

Note: To learn more about these roles, how they interact with health care, and see examples of how these roles have impacted their local health care industry, visit this source.

How to Research a Candidate’s Stance Before Voting

When it comes to researching candidates and their stances, there are various ways to uncover the views they align with. First, visit sites like the Government’s Local Election Finder or Vote 411’s Voters’ Guide to discover the candidates up for election in one’s local area. These sites will provide a brief synopsis of each candidate and their stances on common topics such as health care, the economy, climate change, and more. Then, to further research candidates, visit their campaign site and watch/​listen/​read their interviews or debates on Youtube or other platforms.

How to Register to Become a Voter

There are many simple ways to register to vote, such as visiting online sites like Vote.gov or the U.S. Vote Foundation to become an eligible voter in your county and state. However, some states have specific deadlines for registering prior to an election, so it’s important to find accurate information and requirements based on one’s state.

Some local departments, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or various health care practices, will allow their clients to register to vote during their appointment. For example, when a new license is applied for, or one makes alterations to their license, they can register to vote while at the DMV. Along with other health care providers, Oak Street Health makes it easy for their patients to register through Vot-ER. On the Vot-ER website, a patient can choose to register online or by mail. Patients can also text vote health” to the number 34444 to have them linked to the website and registration form.

Note: To learn more about registering to vote, visit this source.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Voting & Healthcare

If feeling lost on where to begin, patients are welcome to ask their providers about registering to vote and how voting may impact their health care. Examples of questions to ask a provider include but are not limited to:

  • What upcoming elections should I be aware of?

  • Have we missed the deadline for you to register to vote?

  • How can I confirm my registration?

  • What kinds of ID do I need to bring?

  • What requirements do I need in order to vote?

  • Can I vote by mail? 

  • Are there absentee options for me?

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