A prominent feature of the first presidential debate, healthcare was barely mentioned Tuesday night in President Barack Obama's and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's arguments that focused heavily on other domestic issues such as jobs, taxes, energy and immigration policy.
The two candidates addressed voters in a 90-minute town-hall format at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., three weeks before Election Day in the second of three presidential debates and the last to focus on both domestic and foreign policy.
“I actually think it was surprisingly absent given the size of healthcare as part of our federal budget, as part of our national economy—GDP—and as part of the lame-duck issues we have to tackle,” such as extending certain Medicare programs and the anticipated sequestration process, said Ilisa Halpern Paul, managing government relations director at the law firm Drinker Biddle and Reath in Washington. “I did anticipate one or two direct questions from voters.”
Instead, the candidates wove healthcare—albeit slightly—into answers to questions on other topics. For instance, the president mentioned contraceptive coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as well as funding for Planned Parenthood during a discussion of income inequalities between men and women in the workplace. A major difference in the campaign, Obama argued, is Romney “feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the healthcare choices that women are making.”
The president continued by saying that his healthcare bill requires insurance companies to provide contraceptive coverage to everyone who is insured because the issue is not just a health issue, but also an economic one.