January 31st, 2008
03:11 PM ET

Candidate health care plans

As I have traveled around the country, it seems everyone is concerned about health care. More people than not think the system needs a major overhaul. An estimated 47 million Americans have no insurance. For others, it's an enormous financial burden. Families USA, a non-profit focused on affordable health care, predicts 18 million Americans under 65 will spend more than a quarter of their family income on health care this year - and that's before taxes. And for some, the costs of medical care are catastrophic. It's the Number One cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States.

So what are the candidates proposing to do about health care?

Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each promise they'll provide access to health care for everyone. They would do this by expanding coverage for children and Medicaid for the poor. Also, they'd require most companies to offer insurance to their workers.

The big difference: Clinton would require everyone who wasn't covered by work or the government to buy their own insurance. Obama says that's unfair because buying your own insurance is so expensive. As a result, Clinton claims Obama's plan would leave out 15 million Americans. Both agree: they do not want a government run system like Canada or several European countries.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was a White House Fellow, a non-partisan appointment, in Hillary Clinton's office in 1997 and 1998 – three to four years after her health care initiative had been defeated.

Republican candidates (Watch Video) say the Clinton and Obama plans are too expensive and would add red tape to already-large bureaucracies. They're proposing a different approach. They want to increase competition among insurance companies to bring down the price of health care insurance. They also want to give individuals who buy their own health insurance tax breaks. In short, they want to use the power of the marketplace to make health care more affordable.

The challenge for the Republicans, of course, is what to do with people who still aren't covered?

So, which do you think will work? Using the free market and enterprise or expanding existing programs to cover everyone?

– Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent 
Programming note: Watch "Broken Government: Health Care – Critical Condition" tonight at 11 ET on CNN. The hour also airs at 11 p.m. SundayEditor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.
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