Health Care Is Top Concern For Florida Voters As Coronavirus Upends Primary Vote

Mar 18, 2020

Florida voters overwhelmingly chose Joe Biden over Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s primary election. Access to quality health care plans and paying for health insurance were top of mind for voters as Florida remains under a state of emergency and the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow.

 

Mary Shedden, news director at WUSF, was part of “I-4 Votes,” a joint project with her station and WMFE in Orlando. She joined the Florida Roundup to discuss what Florida voters want. Shedden talked with hosts Tom Hudson and Melissa Ross about what’s influencing voters’ decisions when it comes to choosing a presidential candidate.

Here’s an excerpt of their conversation:

Melissa Ross: Tell us a little more about the feedback you got from voters with the I-4 Votes project.

MARY SHEDDEN: The I-4 Votes Project was set up as a way to look at this incredibly powerful political snapshot of Florida and the U.S. The I-4 corridor runs from St. Petersburg all the way to Daytona Beach. We did a survey over about four months. It wasn't scientific. It was just saying, ‘What do you think about issues?’ And as you heard these folks today, just a few moments ago, over and over again, health care came up as the top issue. The environment came in second, but health care by far, without a doubt, was really important to voters, whether it was issues such as insurance or access to health care. Also, a big issue is health care cost. ‘How much is my prescription, how much of my prescription drugs, how much does my insurance premium cost?’ You heard that from those folks. Those over and over again, regardless of party, were the big issues. 

Melissa Ross: Ohio postponed its primary today. Florida and a couple of other states went ahead. How are we gauging that? The governor's approach to crisis management? He said, 'You know, we're going to go ahead with this election.' People even voted when the Civil War was raging, and that was part of his rationale not to cancel it. 

MARY SHEDDEN: Well, we definitely saw a change in how people reacted when you're talking about elections at the election today in Pinellas County, more than 300 poll workers didn't show up. The county knew that yesterday. They did emergency training with employees. And so, they were able to staff it.

Does that speak directly to how the governor responded? Not so much. Governor DeSantis is giving regular briefings. He's talking. He's getting the message out. But there have been a lot of questions in Florida as well as nationwide about testing, rolling that out. It looks like drive-through testing starting in Broward County and expanding here in Tampa Bay.

I know in the next few days the information coming out has been the real question about how the governor has been handling it. And I don't know if that affected the turnout today, but really the information has not been flowing from the Department of Health in a systematic way. And we're Floridians, we're used to those regular hurricane briefings. You want a cone of uncertainty? We're used to getting information in a regular way. And it really hasn't rolled out. And this is unlike anything the Department of Health or any of us have seen.

Tom Hudson: Mary, when you spoke with voters and said they identified health care. We heard from some of them at the top of the program about Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid. Did they offer up a path forward in the kind of solutions that they would like to see a Medicare-For-All Sanders idea? Pete Buttigieg talked about a Medicare-If-You-Want-It sort of plan. How did voters come down on addressing the challenges that they've identified? 

MARY SHEDDEN: I think a lot of the folks we spoke with are, just as for us, probably more frustrated with how political leaders aren't coming up with solutions. I think that's part of the appeal of the Medicare-For-All. The woman you heard from earlier, Phyllis from Tampa, said she doesn't have a political affiliation. She's never registered for a specific party. And she really thought the Republican Party was going to come up with some kind of solution that was even better than Obamacare. And she just said, ‘I'm listening. I'm still waiting.’ I think that folks that's what political people were saying. That's what political leaders were elected to do. And they haven't come up with a plan. And there's a real frustration with that.

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