Here's is the quesiton from Tuesday night's debate and the candidates answers.
Brokaw: Quick discussion. Is health care in America a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?
McCain: I think it's a responsibility, in this respect, in that we should have available and affordable health care to every American citizen, to every family member. And with the plan that -- that I have, that will do that.
But government mandates I -- I'm always a little nervous about. But it is certainly my responsibility. It is certainly small-business people and others, and they understand that responsibility. American citizens understand that. Employers understand that.
But they certainly are a little nervous when Sen. Obama says, if you don't get the health care policy that I think you should have, then you're going to get fined. And, by the way, Sen. Obama has never mentioned how much that fine might be. Perhaps we might find that out tonight.
Obama: Well, why don't -- why don't -- let's talk about this, Tom, because there was just a lot of stuff out there.
Brokaw: Privilege, right or responsibility. Let's start with that.
Obama: Well, I think it should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can't pay their medical bills -- for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they're saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don't have to pay her treatment, there's something fundamentally wrong about that.
So let me -- let me just talk about this fundamental difference. And, Tom, I know that we're under time constraints, but Sen. McCain through a lot of stuff out there.
Number one, let me just repeat, if you've got a health care plan that you like, you can keep it. All I'm going to do is help you to lower the premiums on it. You'll still have choice of doctor. There's no mandate involved.
Small businesses are not going to have a mandate. What we're going to give you is a 50 percent tax credit to help provide health care for those that you need.
Now, it's true that I say that you are going to have to make sure that your child has health care, because children are relatively cheap to insure and we don't want them going to the emergency room for treatable illnesses like asthma.
And when Sen. McCain says that he wants to provide children health care, what he doesn't mention is he voted against the expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program that is responsible for making sure that so many children who didn't have previously health insurance have it now.
Now, the final point I'll make on this whole issue of government intrusion and mandates -- it is absolutely true that I think it is important for government to crack down on insurance companies that are cheating their customers, that don't give you the fine print, so you end up thinking that you're paying for something and, when you finally get sick and you need it, you're not getting it.
And the reason that it's a problem to go shopping state by state, you know what insurance companies will do? They will find a state -- maybe Arizona, maybe another state -- where there are no requirements for you to get cancer screenings, where there are no requirements for you to have to get pre-existing conditions, and they will all set up shop there.
That's how in banking it works. Everybody goes to Delaware, because they've got very -- pretty loose laws when it comes to things like credit cards.
And in that situation, what happens is, is that the protections you have, the consumer protections that you need, you're not going to have available to you.
That is a fundamental difference that I have with Sen. McCain. He believes in deregulation in every circumstance. That's what we've been going through for the last eight years. It hasn't worked, and we need fundamental change.
Brokaw: Sen., we want to move on now. If we'd come back to the hall here, we're going to shift gears here a little bit and we're going to go to foreign policy and international matters, if we can...
McCain: I don't believe that -- did we hear the size of the fine?
Now I took that one way and based on his answer, I think McCain took it the same way I did.
Is access to health care a right? Certainly. I don't know anyone who disagrees with that. Is it a responsibility, which I view to be more than a right? Yes. Do you have the right to obtain quality treatment when you are hurt or sick? Yes. Is that available for most Americans right now? Yes. Do we need to work on it? Yes.
Now, what about the responsibility part. Do you have a responsibility to attend to your own health to the extent that you are able? Certainly! Do you have a responsibility do obtain health insurance coverage when you are not sick so that the pool of available insured is a good mix and the system can work? Yes Do you need to obtain wellcare when and where you are able so emergency rooms are not overwhelmed? Yes.
To me a responsibility doesn't mean it's not a right, it means it's more than a right. I also don't believe every problem needs to be solved by that federal government. Sometimes they, sometimes they don't.
I live in Massachusetts where we have mandatory healthcare and believe it's no cakewalk. The one thing they said this would go a long way toward solving was people using the ER for primary care. The number on this came out the other day and so far it is not a success.