GOP Presidential Candidates: Their Ideas on Healthcare Reform, Medicare & Medicaid

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Seven GOP Presidential candidates participated yesterday in a debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., battling over a wide range of hot-button issues, including healthcare. While the candidates, particularly Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, sparred each other on healthcare issues, the candidates also generally share similar sentiments about President Obama's healthcare reform law — the need for a total repeal.

Here are the candidates' stances on healthcare:

Michele Bachmann. A particularly staunch critic of the healthcare law's individual mandate, Ms. Bachmann is in favor of increasing access to affordable healthcare by making medical expenses tax-deductible for individuals and employers. Ms. Bachmann also supports an expansion of the Health Savings Accounts, which allow people to save money for healthcare tax-free, and the creation of Association Health Plans, which would allow small businesses to jointly purchase insurance for their employees at a lower cost through trade organizations.

Herman Cain. Mr. Cain, also a critic of Obama's health reform law, seeks to replace the reform law with "patient-centered, free market reforms." Mr. Cain also seeks tort reforms that would prevent "frivolous" malpractice lawsuits, particularly with regulations that would require losing parties in medical lawsuits to pay legal expenses for those found not guilty. Ms. Cain's other initiatives include expanding Health Savings Accounts and allowing deductibility of health premiums bought individually or through an employer.

Newt Gingrich. Mr. Gingrich believes increased competition in the healthcare industry will help keep prices low while still providing many options for care. In that vein, he believes health insurance should be purchased across state lines. Mr. Gingrich also seeks a block-grant program for state Medicaid programs and a high risk pool, which would allow each state to cover the sickest uninsured patients, among other initiatives.

Jon Huntsman. With a combative opinion of healthcare reform in Massachusetts and the U.S., Mr. Huntsman, former governor of Utah, believes free-market healthcare "without mandates and fines on individuals and businesses" is the key to improving healthcare in America. This attitude is reflected in his 2008 healthcare reform package for Utah, which allows individuals to negotiate and choose their own health plans.

Ron Paul. In addition to a repeal of health reform and tort reform, other unique aspects of Mr. Paul's stance on healthcare include a payroll deduction for any employee who is the primary caregiver for his or her spouse, parents or child with a terminal illness and a payroll tax exemption for employees suffering from and incurring healthcare costs for a terminal illness. Mr. Paul also would seek to stop federal agencies from limiting consumers' knowledge of dietary supplements and alternative treatments.

Rick Perry. Mr. Perry, considered to be the GOP frontrunner tied for the lead with Mitt Romney, believes job creation can improve healthcare, as it would allow employed consumers to be covered by employer-sponsored health plans. He also believes job creation will alleviate burdens on public safety-net programs such as Medicaid and save tax dollars. Mr. Perry is in favor of repealing President Obama's healthcare reform law.

Mitt Romney. Mr. Romney, also a GOP frontrunner tied for the lead with Mr. Perry, implemented a universal health program in Massachusetts while he was governor and supports a similar approach on a national level but not at the expense of raising taxes. Other notable points on his stance include tax deductions for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, medical malpractice reform and block grants for state Medicaid programs.

Rick Santorum. Mr. Santorum is known to be a vocal critic of President Obama's healthcare reform law as well as former Massachusetts Gov. Romney's state healthcare reform package of 2008. Despite endorsing Mr. Romney's 2008 president campaign, Mr. Santorum is keeping a clean line between 2008 and 2012, questioning whether his reform package was "right thing to do," according to a Mass Live report.

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