by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.
Unlike in last month’s GOP debate, in the Democratic Presidential Candidate debate last night, health care issues were not a central factor. If you recall, the GOP debaters went round in circles about whether children should be vaccinated. In the DNC debate, health care issues were raised in a brief mention of Obamacare (i.e. “Affordable Care Act (ACA)) and in greater depth in discussing insurance coverage of undocumented individuals.
When talking about Obamacare, Bernie Sanders stated that he preferred universal health care coverage over the ACA’s private insurance approach. He believes that health care should be a right and suggests opening Medicare enrollment to everyone. Hillary Clinton said that more people need to be covered under health insurance but through the ACA.
The majority of time spent on health care issues focused on health insurance coverage for undocumented immigrants. However, even that was only about 3 minutes. Martin O’Malley reiterated his position that undocumented immigrants should have access to ACA benefits by being able to purchase insurance through the exchanges using their own funds. Clinton echoed this position but added explicitly that such individuals should not be eligible for government subsidies. For her, any subsidy would have to be part of a larger immigration reform bill. She also mentioned supporting children’s health insurance. Jim Webb stated that “I wouldn’t have a problem with that” when asked about having undocumented immigrants eligible to buy into the ACA marketplace.
In a final nod to the importance of health care, Clinton answered the last question of the night about “who were they most proud of to have as enemies” with the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries among others. However, both of those industries have been generous supporters of her, her husband, and their Clinton Foundation.
What are differences then between the GOP and Democrats on health? When the GOP discussed health it was about “parental choice” in support of allowing vaccine denial and a rejection of science. The Democrats focused on making health insurance available to more people. One side talked about exclusions and the other about inclusions. Neither party talked about providing funding for additional coverage or even about a larger issue, access to health care. Given the contentiousness surrounding Obamacare and Republican candidates’ pledges to repeal the ACA, we surely will hear more about health care issues from both sides over the next 13 months.