The 10 highest-polling Republican presidential candidates didn't say a lot about health policy during their first official debate in Cleveland on Thursday night, but one passionate answer by Ohio Gov. John Kasich was not the typical GOP stance.
Kasich defended his decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio with a relatively long explanation of how it has brought resources to those who need it most.
“To do what? To treat the mentally ill,” he said. “Ten thousand of them sit in our prisons, and it costs $22,500 a year to keep them in prison. I would rather them get their medication so they can lead a decent life.”
He referenced the number of prisoners with substance abuse problems and their recidivism rate and then described what many health policy experts cite as a core issue that called for expansion.
“And finally, the working poor, instead of having them come into the emergency rooms where it costs more, where they're sicker and we end up paying, we brought a program in here to make sure that people could get on their feet,” he said.
Kasich snagged the final spot in the debate but ended up in the middle of the pack as far as the amount of time spoken.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also expanded Medicaid, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who did not, were not directly asked about their decisions and did not speak to that topic during the debate.
All the candidates were quick to tout anti-abortion beliefs and several called for defunding Planned Parenthood.
When asked about repealing Obamacare, Donald Trump mentioned support for buying insurance across state borders and in his closing remarks Sen. Marco Rubio took a shot at the Veterans Affairs Department for not doing enough to fix the excessive wait times at clinics and hospitals.
Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida called Obamacare a "job killer" and suggested it be replaced.
According to the U.S. Labor Department, the unemployment rate was nearly 10% in March 2010, when Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. In June of this year, it had fallen to 5.3%. The economy has added more than 12 million jobs since March 2010.
The Congressional Budget Office has projected that having government subsidized health insurance will prompt some people to leave the labor market, since they can get coverage without a job.