Barack Obama called healthcare a right last night while his Republican opponent called it a responsibility, but both candidates called it a top priority if elected to the White House.
The topic battled with broader concerns over the economy and national defense to get heard during the second of three debates between the Democratic presidential hopeful Obama and his Republican opponent, John McCain.
Obama, who said that the healthcare system is broken and that it is bad not only for families, but its making our businesses less competitive, added that he would make healthcare reform his No. 2 priority if electedbehind energy independence. McCain said he would tackle it immediately and simultaneously with a host of other pressing issues.
We can attack healthcare and energy at the same time, McCain said. Were not rifle shots here. Were Americans. Im not going to tell the person without health insurance, Im sorry, youre going to have to wait.
The answer was in response to a question by debate moderator Tom Brokaw, who asked the candidates to list, in order, their top priorities: healthcare, entitlement reform or energy.
In a follow-up question, Brokaw asked the senators if they would commit to a date certain to require Congress to act on refiguring the Medicare and Social Security programs. Both candidates hedged on a timeline, with the Illinois senator saying that he would attempt to do so within his first term and McCain acknowledging that Medicare would require more effort.
Its not that hard to fix Social Security. Its just tough decisions, McCain said. Medicare is going to be a little tougher. The Arizona senator said he would name a commission to study how best to refigure the nations largest provider of healthcare, then call on lawmakers to quickly vote on their recommendations.
Both Obama and McCain, however, agreed that the use of electronic health records and other high-tech components would be central to any reform plan. -- by Matthew DoBias
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