Obama, Romney go head to head on healthcare

Healthcare was in the spotlight--along with the economy and the budget deficit--at last night's televised presidential debate in Denver. As expected, healthcare was the main point of contention between President Barack Obama (D) and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who sparred over the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, the Independent Payment Advisory Board and even Cleveland Clinic.

Here's the breakdown of the major healthcare points:

Affordable Care Act
Expectedly, Obama defended health reform, while Romney vowed to repeal it. Obama pointed out the benefits of health reform, including the elimination of lifetime insurance caps, under age 26 allowance and insurance rebates.

In a rare acknowledgment of his role in the Massachusetts health reform, as noted by the Los Angeles Times, Romney pointed to bipartisan success in developing health reform in the state, while slamming the administration for what he suggested was a one-sided plan pushed through government.

Although Romney said "up to" 20 million people might lose health insurance under reform, the Congressional Budget Office study that the governor cited actually said it would be more like 3 million to 5 million that would lose employer-sponsored coverage, according to Fact Check, the nonpartisan project from Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. CBO said that 20 million would be the worst-case scenario.

"And over the last two years, healthcare premiums have gone up--it's true--but they've gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years," the president said.

Obama exaggerated by saying that healthcare premiums have "gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years." Healthcare spending has, but not premiums, according to Fact Check.

During the debate, the President reiterated that he likes the monikkor "ObamaCare," a term Republicans have used in the prejorative throughout the campaign.  

The candidates also weighed in on the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which the governor noted is an unelected, appointed board. While Romney claimed IPAB will "tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have," the board actually recommends cost-effectiveness of Medicare measures to determine best practices. As Fact Check noted, it's illegal to ration care.  

Both candidates also referenced Cleveland Clinic. While Obama pointed to the Clinic as a demonstration of cost-effective, value-based care, Romney saw it as an example for private enterprise.

Romney further noted, "The government is not effective in bringing down the cost of almost anything. As a matter of fact, free people and free enterprises trying to find ways to do things better are able to be more effective in bringing down the cost than the government will ever be."

Similarly, Romney advocated for states' rights via a Medicaid block-grant program. "I would like to take the Medicaid dollars that go to states and say to a state, you're going to get what you got last year, plus inflation, plus 1 percent," he said. "And then you're going to manage your care for your poor in the way you think best."

Kaiser Health News reported, the voucher program would curb Medicaid spending by $810 billion over 10 years, according to the CBO. However, it also would result in 14 million and 27 million fewer people being covered in 2021.

The second of three presidential debates will be held Oct. 16. at Hofstra University in New York.

For more information:
- see the transcript of the debate from The Denver Post
- read the LA Times article
- here's the Kaiser Health News article on Medicaid
­- check out Fact Check's review

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