NEW HAMPSHIRE - Saturday night during a three-hour discussion in New Hampshire, seven GOP presidential candidates compared ideas on numerous topics, including health care.
Three of the candidates answered a question posed by political pundit Mary Katherine Ham, who asked them how they would handle the nation's health care system.
Real estate billionaire Donald Trump said he was going to "repeal Obamacare," but didn't say what he would propose in its place. He blasted insurance companies and health care companies as "getting rich" off Obamacare. Senator Ted Cruz said he would repeal Obamacare and offered four ideas to begin dismantling the current system. Dr. Ben Carson proposed a health empowerment plan that would be assigned to each citizen at birth, and continue with them throughout their lives.
The discussion proceeded in this way (Full debate transcript available at The Washington Post):
HAM: In the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton has criticized Bernie Sanders' plan for single payer government health care, noting it would require big, across the board tax increases for Americans. In doing so, she's doubling down on Obamacare, despite its persistent unpopularity.
Mr. Trump, you have said you want to appeal Obamacare. You have also said, quote, "Everybody's got to be covered," adding, quote, "The government's going to pay for it." Are you closer to Bernie Sanders' vision for health care than Hillary Clinton's?
TRUMP: I don't think I am. I think I'm closer to common sense. We are going to repeal Obamacare.
TRUMP: We're going to repeal Obamacare. We are going to replace Obamacare with something so much better. And there are so many examples of it. And I will tell you, part of the reason we have some people laughing, because you have insurance people that take care of everybody up here.
I am self-funded. The only one they're not taking care of is me. We have our lines around each state. The insurance companies are getting rich on Obamacare. The insurance companies are getting rich on health care and health services and everything having to do with health. We are going to end that.
We're going to take out the artificial boundaries, the artificial lines. We're going to get a plan where people compete, free enterprise. They compete. So much better.
TRUMP: In addition to that, you have the health care savings plans, which are excellent. What I do say is, there will be a certain number of people that will be on the street dying and as a Republican, I don't want that to happen. We're going to take care of people that are dying on the street because there will be a group of people that are not going to be able to even think in terms of private or anything else and we're going to take care of those people.
And I think everybody on this stage would have to agree...
... you're not going to let people die, sitting in the middle of a street in any city in this country.
RADDATZ: Senator Cruz, to that point, Mr. Trump has said that your position on health care means that maybe you've got, quote, "no heart". There is a question here, though, about uncovered folks. You suggested repealing and replacing Obamacare. As we learned with President Obama's broken promise that everyone could keep their plan, any major plan -- change in health care policy carries with it the risk that some people will lose their insurance coverage or have to change it.
How do you reassure that those people that repealing and replacing Obamacare is still in their best interest?
CRUZ: Well, let me take two different parts of that. Let me start with socialized medicine. Socialized medicine is a disaster. It does not work. If you look at the countries that have imposed socialized medicine, that have put the government in charge of providing medicine, what inevitably happens is rationing.
You have a scarcity of doctors. You have rationing. And that means the elderly are told, we're going to ration a hip replacement, we're going to ration a knee replacement. We're going to ration end- of-life care.
We're right now heading into a medical system with about a 90,000-doctor shortage in America and socialized medicine; whether proposed by the Democrats or proposed by a Republican would hurt the people of this country.
What should we do on health care? If I'm elected president, we will repeal every word of Obamacare.
CRUZ: And once we do that, we will adopt common sense reforms, number one, we'll allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines that will drive down prices and expand the availability of low cost catastrophic insurance.
CRUZ: We'll expand health savings accounts; and we will de-link health insurance from employment so that you don't lose your health insurance when you lose your job, and that way health insurance can be personal, portable and affordable and we keep government from getting in between us and our doctors.
HAM: Dr. Carson, you have some experience with this matter. In the past, you have said that Obamacare should be replaced before it's repealed. How and why?
CARSON: Well, thank you. You know, I was hoping to get a chance to talk about North Korea. I was the only one who didn't get to do that, and I've got stuff to say about it, let me tell you.
But at any rate, you have to replace it with something that makes sense. It doesn't make sense. And the reason that I dislike Obamacare is because the government comes in and tells the people -- which the nation is supposed to be centered on -- that we don't care what you think, this is what we're doing. And if you don't like it, too bad. That's a problem. And we can't afford to do that because that will fundamentally change America.
I have proposed a health empowerment account system. Everybody gets a health empowerment account the day they are born, they keep it until they die. They can pass it on. We pay for it with the same dollars that we pay for traditional health care with, recognizing that we spend twice as much as many countries per capita and health care and don't have as such access.
We give people the ability to shift money within their health empowerment account so that each family basically becomes its own insurance company without a middleman; that saves you a awful lot of money. And that will lower the cost of your catastrophic insurance tremendously, because the only thing coming out of that is catastrophic health care.
And then in terms of taking care of the indigent, we have another whole system, and I can go ahead and explain it, but I don't have the time, but I'd be happy to if you give me some more time. But go to my website bencarson.com, read about it. You can read about everything that's been discussed here in great detail.
HAM: Thank you, Dr. Carson. David, Martha, back to you.