During the final Republican presidential debate Thursday, just days before the primaries kick off, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he would delink health insurance and employers, so people wouldn't lose coverage if they switched or lost their jobs.
Cruz added that he would support allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines, and would expand health savings accounts. Both ideas have been Republican talking points for years.
The debate in Iowa, where the nation's voting begins Monday, was notable for the absence of GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who held a separate rally in defiance of the debate's sponsor, Fox News.
As in most of the debates, health policy was on the back burner as candidates focused on terrorism, immigration and foreign policy.
Both Democrats and Republicans seeking the presidential nomination have said insurance shouldn't be tied to employers, but few alternatives have been articulated.
In fact, one of the tenets of the Affordable Care Act is that consumers should be able to buy health insurance from an exchange so they don't have to depend on employer-sponsored insurance.
Cruz emphasized that he would “repeal every word” of the ACA, and said the healthcare reform law is a “job-killer” that has caused skyrocketing premiums and caused people to lose their doctors.
Opponents of the ACA have frequently said the law has forced employers to cut jobs and worker hours, but recent studies have shown no evidence of those actions..
Cruz also said he believes Americans should carry inexpensive catastrophic insurance, instead of coverage that encourages preventive care.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich brought up mental health treatment, and said that those with mental illnesses and addiction problems should receive help instead of incarceration.
“The time has come to stop ignoring the mentally ill in this country,” he said.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he would reduce federal spending, and his first move would be to defund Planned Parenthood. Congress recently passed a bill to cut funding from the organization and repeal the ACA, but President Barack Obama quickly vetoed it.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul also participated in Thursday's debate.