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Health care: What are the candidates saying?

14 November 2011

By Julie Bissinger

As the Republican
presidential candidates continue to vie for their party’s nomination, social issues have taken center stage in the recent debates, with each candidate holding different opinions on issues such as health care, immigration, abortion and same-sex marriage. The health care debate, in particular, has played a major role in the contest. Eight of the major candidates have expressed disapproval with the recently-passed federal health care law and are now offering different strategies for changing the health care system.

Three candidates focused on market capitalism approaches to the health care system. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who previously passed health care legislation in his state, emphasized cutting health care costs. “I didn't get the job done in Massachusetts in getting the health care costs down in this country,” Romney said during the CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate. “It's something I think we have got to do at the national level. I intend to do that.” Romney also said that the best way to make markets work is to allow people to buy their own products from private enterprises, without going through the government.

Herman Cain said that HR 3400, a bill that was introduced by the U.S. House of Representatives back in 2009, would provide an alternative to the current system. Speaking of HR 3400 during the CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate, Cain said that, “It basically passes market-centered, market-driven, patient-centered sort of reforms to allow association health plans, to allow loser pay laws, to allow insurance products to be sold across state lines, and a whole list of other things. So that's a great place to start. It allows the patient and the doctors to make the decisions, not a bureaucrat." 

While at the Fox News - Google GOP debate, Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman said, “This one trillion dollar bomb that Obamacare means to this country over 10 years is creating such uncertainty in the marketplace that businesses aren't willing to hire, they're not willing to deploy capital into the marketplace.” Huntsman offered an alternative to the federal health care law, and suggested that, “We go out to the states and let the states experiment and find breakthroughs in how we address health care reform.”

Two candidates have advocated for a reduction in government health care spending. During the CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich described Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts as “one more big government, bureaucratic, high-cost system.” Gingrich said Massachusetts has received a higher percentage of appropriations from the federal government, which helped Romney launch the health care plan.
Former Senator Rick Santorum also disagreed with Romney’s approach to health care during the CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate. Santorum said, “What you [Romney] did with a top-down, government-run program was focus on the problem of health care access. You expanded the pool of insurance without controlling costs.” Santorum likened Romney’s health care plan to the current federal plan. He said, “What you [Romney] did is exactly what Barack Obama did: focused on the wrong problem.”

Congressman Ron Paul focused on libertarian and small government approaches towards the issue of health care. “If you want better competition and better health care, you should allow the American people to opt out of government medicine,” Paul said during the CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate. During the CNN/Tea Party Express Debate, Paul said, health care “cost is [sic] so high because they dump it on the government, it becomes a bureaucracy. It becomes special interests. It kowtows to the insurance companies and the drug companies, and then on top of that, you have the inflation.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry emphasized states’ rights during Reagan Library Republican Debate. Perry claimed that Americans do not want the federal government involved with health care. “On day one, as the president of the United States, that executive order will be signed and Obamacare will be wiped out as much as it can be,” Perry said. He also mentioned how he would change the Medicaid system. “Medicaid needs to be block-granted back to the states so that we can use the innovation in the states, come up with the best ways to deliver health care.”
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann also supported the repeal of the federal health care law. “I think it has to be stated that Obamacare is so flat-out unpopular, that even the Obama administration chose to reject part of Obamacare,” Bachmann said while at the CNN debate. “When even the Obama administration wants to repeal this bill, I think we're going to win this thing. We're going to repeal it! And I will!”

For more information on where all the presidential candidates stand on issues like health care, in addition to the war in Afghanistan, immigration, and the budget, voters are encouraged to check out VoteEasy, the web-based interactive tool just released for the 2012 election season. In addition, please view the candidate profiles of those candidates not mentioned in this post including President Barack Obama, Gary Johnson, and Buddy Roemer to learn about their stance on health care.

Julie Bissinger is a student at the University of Texas at Austin majoring in Journalism and is a current intern with Project Vote Smart. For more information on internship opportunities with Project Vote Smart at their research headquarters in Montana, contact us at or by calling 1-888-VOTE-SMART.

Related tags: Affordable-Care-Act, blog, key-votes, Massachusetts, Texas, Utah

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