Survey shows health care isn’t a priority issue in Governor’s race, but is it?

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A new survey conducted on behalf of AARP shows health care is not the issue that will guide voters to decide whether to vote on Nov. 8 for incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis or his Democratic challenger Charlie Crist.

Just 4% of likely voters aged 50 and older identified health care as the issue most important to them in the Governor’s race. The only policy provisions to rank lower than health care in the survey released Wednesday were state spending and taxes, each of which were identified by 1% of the voters as their top priorities in the race for Governor.

By contrast, 19% said inflation and rising prices were their most important issues in the upcoming race. But a closer look at the data shows that the increased costs of prescription drugs and health care were cited by 20% of the voters as their top inflationary concerns. That’s on par with housing costs, which also were cited by 20% of voters as their top inflationary concern.

By far though, the increased cost of food is what is proving most worrisome to Florida voters, with 32% citing it as the most pressing concern with inflation. The rising cost of food is more troubling than the cost of gasoline, which was identified by 16% of voters as their main inflationary concern.

AARP surveyed voters in swing states on the candidates they prefer and the most critical issues. Republican firm Fabrizio Ward and Democratic outfit Impact Research worked together on the comprehensive survey.

The firms interviewed 1,626 Florida voters, 30% via landline, 35% via cellphone and 35% via computer. Included in the survey of voters is a sample of 500 likely voters.

The survey results show DeSantis with 50% support from likely Florida voters, while Crist has the support of 47% of likely voters. Notably, though, DeSantis holds a stronger position than Crist with voters aged 50 and older, 52% of whom support DeSantis. 

“Florida voters 50 and older are a critical voting demographic that all candidates are competing for in this midterm election,” said Jeff Johnson, state director for AARP Florida.

The poll also shows that 77% of voters support Florida’s efforts to import drugs from Canada said they would be more likely to support a candidate who would “push the federal government” to allow the state to move ahead with its efforts, with 44% of voters saying they would be “much more likely” to vote for a candidate who supports the state’s drug importation efforts.

According to his campaign website, Crist supports the state’s Canadian drug importation efforts as well as a bevy of other ideas to lower prescription drug costs, including authorizing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug costs, a priority of the Joe Biden administration that was, in part, passed as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Florida’s law authorizing the state to pursue a Canadian drug importation program was passed in 2019. 

DeSantis sued the Biden administration in federal court last week for what it claims is an “unreasonable delay” in approving Florida’s proposal to move ahead with a Canadian Drug Importation Program. Filed in Tampa, the suit requests the court to compel the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to immediately approve Florida’s request for a “Section 804 Implementation Program” (SIP).

“In the nearly two years while Florida’s SIP Proposal has been pending, the FDA has asked for several minor clarifications and supplements but has provided no outward evidence of any substantive progress towards approving the Program,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also requests the judge to compel the Biden administration to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request the state submitted seeking relevant documents about Florida and other state’s SIP proposals but the government has not responded.

Health care issues impacting senior citizens and people with disabilities also are important to the state’s 50-plus voting bloc the survey shows. Indeed, 87% of mature voters were more likely to embrace a gubernatorial candidate who supported policies to provide people with assistance in their activities of daily living–eating, bathing and dressing– as an alternative to nursing home care.

Both DeSantis and Crist support expanding home and community-based services as a means to keep people out of institutional care.

Voters also were likely to support a gubernatorial candidate who opposed efforts by the nursing home industry to “weaken staffing requirements and standards” at skilled nursing centers with 80% of those surveyed saying they were more likely to stand behind a candidate who makes sure seniors “get quality care.”

The Florida Health Care Association (FHCA), which represents most of the state’s for-profit nursing homes, had been pushing for nursing home staff reductions since before the start of the COVID-19, arguing that the 20-plus-year-old staffing requirement is antiquated, and that today’s nursing home resident is more medically complex.

But its efforts hadn’t been successful until this year when the FHCA reached an agreement with the Florida Justice Association (FJA), the group that represents the state’s trial lawyers that traditionally thwarted the nursing home industry’s efforts.

The oft-warring statewide organizations struck an agreement that gave the nursing home industry the green light to reduce its certified nursing hours in exchange for changes the trial attorneys sought and the bill passed the House by a 80-31 vote and the Senate by a 28-9 vote.

AARP pressed DeSantis to veto the bill but was unsuccessful.

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