Voting is Good for Your Health: How Health Equity Depends on What Happens at the Ballot Box
Mika Moser | June 29, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mika Moser
Nashville, TN- The Tennessee Justice Center has authored a policy brief that explains the cyclic relationship between voting and health, as well as the impact of politics on healthcare.
Voting creates a sense of belonging to the community, which leads to happier and healthier lives and empowers people to advocate for better health policies. However, there are significantly lower voting rates among marginalized groups due to accessibility, voter suppression laws, and unmet basic needs – like affordable housing. A vicious cycle is created that results in underserved communities not getting the help and resources they need, translating to poorer health conditions and lower voter turnout. Providing more people with access to the ballot box can lead to better health. The paper notes, for example, that after women gained voting rights with passage of the 19th amendment, maternal and infant mortality rates decreased significantly. COVID brought attention to the relationship between public health and voting, as accommodations were made that ensured everyone, including people with disabilities and medical conditions, could vote safely, which contributed to 66.8% of eligible voters participating in the 2020 election—the highest turnout rate of the 21st century.
The healthcare sector spent over $623 million in 2020 on lobbying to discourage lawmakers from passing legislation that would lower the exorbitant costs of medical care. Electing leaders who represent the interests of their constituents can decrease the power of the few stakeholders who benefit from the status quo. Congress passing the No Surprises Act, which was highly lobbied against by hospitals and insurance companies, reveals the power that the government has to improve healthcare in our country.
Tennessee voters are encouraged to call upon their state legislators to use their power to provide health care coverage to the 300,000 Tennesseans who are in the coverage gap. With this being an election year, now is the time for voters to ask candidates where they stand on policies like Medicaid expansion, which has the support of the majority of voters across party lines.
Matia Powell, Executive Director of Civic TN, stated: “Voting is one of the most important ways that people can shape policies that have a direct impact on their lives and their communities. This paper explains how voting impacts not just health care itself, but all the social determinants of health in a clear message that every person who cares about preserving our democracy should receive. In working to engage voters, Civic TN recognizes the barriers they face, such as disenfranchisement efforts and lack of access to basic needs, that leads to lower voter turnout and the vicious cycle that TJC highlights in this paper. It is particularly important for marginalized communities to understand the connection, push against the barriers, and vote to bring about the changes that are necessary to achieve health equity.”
The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) is a non-profit public interest law and advocacy firm serving families in Tennessee. It gives priority to policy issues and civil cases in which the most basic necessities of life are at stake and where advocacy can benefit needy families statewide. TJC works to empower its clients by holding government accountable for its policies and actions.
TJC was established in 1996 and is located at 211 Seventh Avenue, North, Nashville, TN. For additional information about the Tennessee Justice Center and its services, call 615-255-0331.
We have lots of opportunities to get involved here at TJC! Learn more about Health Equity in Tennessee and around the nation. Visit our Action Center to see what you can do to encourage our state to solve our health needs and improve our safety net. Looking for other ways to contribute to our mission? You can also donate to TJC so that we can continue to do this work to improve our community for each and every person who’s a part of it.
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