When the Democratic presidential candidates take the stage in Las Vegas Tuesday night for their first primary debate, they're likely to tangle over their willingness to tweak the Affordable Care Act and how to tackle rising prescription drug prices.
Front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton will be flanked by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is surging in the polls, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. Also debating will be former Sens. Jim Webb of Virginia and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who are considered long shots for the 2016 nomination.
Vice President Joe Biden has been offered a podium but has not yet declared whether he will be a candidate.
Clinton recently came out against the ACA's so-called Cadillac tax on high-end health insurance plans sponsored by employers. She said late last month that the tax will hurt consumers already struggling with rising deductibles and prescription drug prices.
Sanders has long railed against the tax and has supported legislation to repeal it. O'Malley has also opposed the Cadillac tax. Economists, however, say it would help rein in healthcare costs and is a necessary piece of the ACA.
Repealing the tax would also leave an $87 billion hole in the federal budget. Clinton says her other health policy proposals would make up the cost. Those proposals include setting a monthly limit of $250 on out-of-pocket costs for covered prescriptions.
Both Clinton and Sanders say they would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, allow importation of generic drugs from Canada and require pricing transparency from manufacturers. They would also require drug companies to give rebates to low-income Medicare enrollees that are the same as the Medicaid rebates. The Congressional Budget Office estimates this would save about $100 billion for Medicare.
Sanders voted for the ACA but has said it does not go far enough and supports a nationwide single-payer system.
And in light of recent mass shootings, the candidates are likely to be asked to address gun control and mental health restrictions on gun ownership.
The debate is hosted by CNN and its coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.