The presidential candidates Sunday night discussed the Affordable Care Act at the second of three debates between them by sticking with their usual statements.
The first audience question at the town hall style debate was about rising health insurance premiums, deductibles and copays as well as increasing prescription drug prices. The questioner asked what the candidates would do to make healthcare more affordable.
Republican nominee Donald Trump said he would repeal the ACA but only offered allowing plans to be sold across state lines as a replacement. He called the ACA a “disaster” and a “fraud.” He said turning Medicaid into state block grants would “take care of people without the necessary funds to take care of themselves.”
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said she would work to lower the costs of health insurance in part by offering more assistance to small businesses. She said she would “fix what's broken about” the ACA but keep the benefits it has provided, like banning discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, removing lifetime caps and allowing young adults to stay on their parents insurance until the age of 26.
Trump said Clinton wanted a single-payer system. Clinton did not explicitly deny this and praised Medicare, which she said is a single-payer system that “does a great job” taking care of seniors.
“If we just rip it (the ACA) up and throw it away, what Donald is not telling you, is we just turn it back to the insurance companies,” she said.
Trump has frequently talked about allowing insurance to be sold across state lines and it has been a conservative policy stance for years, but there is little evidence that it would create better health insurance plans or lower costs.
Independent analyses have found that Clinton's healthcare plan would result in 9 million more insured and lower out-of-pocket costs for some people on the exchanges by about 33%. It would also add about $90 billion to the federal deficit.
Trump's plan would likely lead to 20 million more uninsured and raise out-of-pocket costs by about $5,000 per individual-market enrollee. It would increase the deficit by as much as $41 billion.
In response to Trump questioning what his opponent has done to improve healthcare, Clinton said she helped created the Children's Health Insurance Program as first lady. She said that as senator, she worked to get healthcare for first responders to 9/11, got insurance for members of the National Guard and helped pass a law making children's medicine dosing safer.