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Debate: Obama, McCain Talk Health Care

Experts Analyze the Candidates' Comments for Accuracy
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 8, 2008 (Nashville, Tenn.) -- The economy and foreign policy may have dominated, but last night's second presidential debate also included a substantive face-to-face discussion of health care policy between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama.

Both candidates vowed to make health care reform a top priority in their first year in office.

McCain called health care "one of the major challenges America faces," while Obama said solving the health care crisis is both a "moral commitment" and an "economic imperative."

"As I travel around the country, this is one of the most frequently asked questions I get. The issue of health care," Obama said. "It is breaking family budgets. I can't tell you how many people I meet who don't have health insurance."

Major Difference in Health Plans

The two candidates offered details about their own plans and criticized various aspects of their opponent's plan.

McCain wants to eliminate tax breaks on employer-sponsored health care policies and replace them with health care tax credits of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families. He would also do away with restrictions on purchasing health insurance across state lines in an effort to increase competition.

Obama wants to mandate health care coverage for children and would require health insurance companies to cover everyone, regardless of medical history. He would create a national health-insurance exchange with the goal of providing private or public health insurance coverage for everyone.

McCain said the big differences in the two health care plans represented "a fundamental difference between myself and Sen. Obama."

"He will impose mandates," McCain said. "If you are a small-business person and you don't insure your employees, Sen. Obama will fine you. I want to give every American [family] a $5,000 refundable tax credit they can take anywhere across state lines. Why not? ... In Arizona they may offer a better plan than the one [you can buy] here in Tennessee."

Obama countered that doing away with restrictions on where health insurance can be sold will give an unfair advantage to states with the fewest regulations and result in fewer protections for individual policy holders.

"That is a fundamental difference I have with Sen. McCain," Obama says. "He believes in deregulation in every circumstance. That is what we have been going through for the last eight years and it hasn't worked."

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