The differing plans Republican presidential candidates have recently outlined for revamping Medicaid and Medicare are likely to be discussed during Wednesday night's debate at the University of Colorado.
CNBC, which is hosting the debate that begins at 8 p.m. Eastern, has said the forum will focus on economic issues like retirement spending and taxes. But jabs traded among top candidates this week on Medicare policy may force that issue onto the stage as well.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has obtained the lead spot in several polls this week, recently said he no longer supports abolishing the government health programs, but he wants to provide an alternative that he believes people would “flock to.”
The plan as described in recent interviews is still sketchy, though. It would repeal the Affordable Care Act and focus on the use of health savings accounts that he says would return purchasing power to families.
Donald Trump, the other frontrunner, said this week that Medicare was a program that has worked and which some people love. He also voiced support for health savings accounts, calling them a “good idea” that's “proven.” He has not released a specific plan for changing Medicare or Medicaid.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has previously stated he would like to “phase-out” Medicare, instead this week outlined a plan he said would strengthen it.
Bush's plan calls for Medicare premium support, in which a beneficiary buys a private insurance plan and the government reimburses some of the cost. It would also allow individuals to keep health savings accounts after enrolling in Medicare and stabilize the program financially with unspecified “common-sense reforms.”
A 2013 report from the Congressional Budget Office found that premium support methods could lower overall government costs but could also mean highly varied premiums and total payment for beneficiaries.
The other candidates who will be on the main stage Wednesday have given mostly vague statements and generally favor repealing the ACA and converting Medicaid to block grants. They are Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich of Ohio.