7 things to know: Healthcare in the 3rd Democratic debate

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The three front-running Democratic candidates convened at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Saturday night for the third presidential primary debate.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Governor of Maryland Martin O'Malley took to the stage.

"Healthcare" was mentioned 25 times during the debate, compared with 29 mentions of "terrorism," 71 mentions of "ISIS" and 9 mentions of "ISIL," 20 mentions of "Trump" and 32 mentions of "economy," according to The Washington Post.

Here is what the top three Democrats had to say about healthcare.

1. Ms. Clinton first invoked the Affordable Care Act during her opening statement, in which she called upon voters to "prevent the Republicans from rolling back the progress that we've made." She added a Republican president "would repeal the Affordable Care Act, not improve it."

2. Moderator Martha Raddatz posed the first question about the ACA to Ms. Clinton. She said although 17 million previously uninsured Americans have gained coverage under the ACA, those who were already insured saw the cost of insurance rise 27 percent over the last five years and deductibles rise 67 percent. "What's broken in Obamacare that needs to be fixed right now? And what would you do to fix it?"

Ms. Clinton said she would build on the health reform law's success while tinkering with some of its "glitches." She cited several victories the ACA has brought about, including increased access to healthcare and preventing insurers from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions.

However, Ms. Clinton acknowledged out-of-pocket costs and prescription drug costs have "gone through the roof." She has proposed a $5,000 tax credit to help people cover those costs. Second, she said she wants Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. Third, she said, "I want us to be absolutely clear about making sure the insurance companies in the private employer policy arena as well as in the Affordable Care exchanges are properly regulated so that we are not being gamed."

3. Mr. Sanders agreed that the ACA marks an important step forward for the U.S. healthcare system, but he maintained his position on creating a single-payer health system, in which people would no longer pay premiums or deductibles but would instead have new taxes. However, he was not able to answer Ms. Raddatz's question about how much these taxes would cost.

"Why is it that we are — why is it that we spend almost three times per capita as to what they spend in the U.K., 50 percent more than what they pay in France, countries that guarantee healthcare to all of their people and in many cases, have better healthcare outcomes. Bottom line," said Mr. Sanders.

He added the drug and insurance companies are "bribing the United States Congress," and the country needs to ratify a Medicare-for-all single payer system. Doing so would lower the cost of healthcare for middle-class families by thousands of dollars per year, he said.

4. Moderator David Muir said New Hampshire has been the hardest hit state by the heroin epidemic, and the state is on track this year to have twice as many heroin overdose deaths than it did in 2013. To address this crisis, Mr. Sanders outlined two central plans of action.

"Well, for a start, this may seem like a radical idea, but I think we have got to tell the medical profession and doctors who are prescribing opiates and the pharmaceutical industry that they have got to start getting their act together. We cannot have this huge number of opiates out there throughout this country, where young people are taking them, getting hooked and then going to heroin," said Mr. Sanders. He also said as part of a healthcare-for-all program, there is a need to understand addiction as a disease, "not a criminal activity."

5. In her five-point plan to combat addiction, Ms. Clinton agreed with Mr. Sanders about the need to rein in opioid prescriptions. She also wants the federal government to offer $10 billion over 10 years to work with the states on the issue, as well as every law enforcement worker to carry Naloxone, a medication used to reverse the effects of opioids in instances of overdose. Increasing the number of addiction programs and facilities and changing the way law enforcement approaches heroin use are other components of a solution, Ms. Clinton said.

6. Mr. O'Malley agreed about the need to stop over-prescribing. He added, "We have to invest in the local partnerships, and the best place to intervene, the best indicator of when a person is actually on the verge of killing themselves because of an addiction, is at the hospital. That very first time they show up with a near miss, we should be intervening there."

7. Ms. Clinton came out on top of the debate, according to The Washington Post. She demonstrated superior knowledge on foreign policy in the Middle East than her two contenders, as well as a natural ability to play to local interests. She even injected some humor into her remarks, making a Star Wars reference in her closing comments: "Thank you, good night and may the force be with you."

 

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