During the first debate between Democratic presidential hopefuls Tuesday, candidates barely touched on healthcare issues.
The debate, hosted in Las Vegas by CNN, featured front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has been rising in the polls as a challenger. Also on stage were former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia and former Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who all face far lower polling numbers.
Perhaps the most direct mention of healthcare was Clinton expressing hope that moderators would get to the topic, saying about greater access to care, “We agree on the goals, we just disagree on the weeds.”
During a focus on immigration policy, candidates voiced support for extending the Affordable Care Act to undocumented immigrants.
Clinton emphasized her goal of making sure all children have health insurance and said she would open the exchanges to undocumented people. Giving them the same subsidies as citizens, however, would be logistically unfeasible, she said.
During discussion of gun violence, Sanders mentioned a need for improved access to mental health services, saying too many people are shut out because they don't have insurance and can't afford care.
Webb specifically called for a change to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations that would allow for more sharing of information about patients who are judged to be a danger to themselves or others. Mental health bills currently in both the Senate and House have proposed such clarifications to health privacy laws.
Sanders, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, touted the Veteran's Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which has allowed veterans to receive outside healthcare access when VA doctors are inconveniently located. Sanders co-sponsored the bill with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Clinton took a shot at Republican attacks on Planned Parenthood and said the GOP is interfering “with a woman's right to choose.” She also mentioned health insurance companies and drug manufacturers when asked about the enemies she is most proud to have had.