The Hill

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton To Face Off In Democratic Presidential Debate: Where Do Dems Stand On Health Care?

Democratic Candidates
Ahead of tonight's Democratic presidential debate, here's a brief overview of the stances candidates take on key health care issues. L to R: Charlie Leight/Getty Images; Sean Rayford/Getty Images; Adam Bettcher/Getty Images; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; Rob Kim/Getty Images

It's finally here: Tonight, CNN will host the first of six sanctioned debates, where anchorman Anderson Cooper will ask most of the questions. While viewers are anticipating seeing the two democratic frontrunners go head-to head — independent senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton — there are three other candidates set to take the stage: James Webb (D-Va.), Martin O' Malley (D-Md.), and Lincoln Chafee (D-R.I.). Actually, it's a possibility there will be a fourth if those rumors that vice president Joe Biden is leaning toward a late entry into the democratic race hold up; CNN has reserved a podium for him just in case.

For two hours, candidates will debate key issues, including reforming Wall Street, immigration, foreign policy, and gun control. These are all topics that require attention, yes, but perhaps we're most interested in hearing how candidates plan to improve the current state of health care, from hiked up prescription drug prices to women’s restricted access to reproductive health care.

Below is what we know so far about the stance candidates take on four key, health-related issues.

Affordable Health Care

Sanders, Clinton, and O'Malley have all stated that health care is a basic human right, not a privilege. And each candidate save for Webb has expressed an intention to defend, or defend and expand upon, Obamacare. It's not that Webb doesn't believe "all Americans deserve access to some form of quality health care," but he does believe Obama "mishandled" the legislation, PBS reported; he'd like to implement a "clear set of principles."

Sanders and O’Malley have specifically said they'd like to implement an "all-pay system," in which the government, private insurance companies, businesses, and individuals would all be required to pay the same rate or price for all medical services and procedures, The Hill cited. So far, only Sanders and Clinton have incorporated lowering the cost of co-pays and deductibles, as well as providing LGBT individuals greater access to comprehensive health insurance.

Paid Family Leave

In a blog for the New York Times, writer KJ Dell'Antonia predicts that this particular issue will "take the debate stage" — an issue reportedly not covered so far by the GOP, and one that recently made major headway in Washington, D.C. Sanders plans to provide at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, in addition to two weeks of paid vacation and one week of paid sick days. Clinton is also in favor of a better paid leave plan, writing on her website that "no one should have to choose between keeping their job and taking care of a sick family member or newborn baby."

Webb, O'Malley, and Chafee have been quieter about paid leave on their campaign trails thus far, but in the past, O'Malley and Chafee have both previously signed legislation that requires businesses to provide at least six weeks of unpaid leave and offers workers four weeks of wage replacement benefits while on leave, respectively. Webb, too, has previously supported legislation (though it didn't pass) that increases paid leave for federal workers.

Reproductive Rights

Every candidate supports the idea of women having greater access to affordable reproductive care; Sanders claims he'll expand, not cut, funding for Planned Parenthood, the Title IX family planning program, and other initiatives that protect women’s health. Clinton, too, is of a similar opinion and believes "women's personal health decisions should be made by a woman, her family, and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor."

And while Webb, O'Malley, and Chafee have been quiet on this issue, too, they have all supported abortion rights and objected to legislation that would enforce abortion restrictions in the past. O'Malley in particular has said that "we have to do more to make sure that women are treated fairly and compensated equally," while Chafee believes "a woman should make her own reproductive decisions."

Prescription Drug Costs

The Democratic Party in general has taken aim at the "massive" price increases of certain prescription drug costs, Reuters reported. Sanders has specific policies that ultimately bargain for better drug prices, even if that means individuals, pharmacists, and wholesalers import said drugs from Canada. In fact, O’Malley and Chafee are also in favor of drug importation from Canada if it means more cost-effective prescriptions.

Clinton has said she recognizes that prescription drug spending has accelerated over the past years, and believes we need to demand lower drug costs for hardworking families and seniors; she's actually already proposed $250 monthly caps on prescription drugs. Webb and O'Malley haven't quite addressed how they plan to address high costs, but they have both previously supported bills that negotiate better prices.

The Democratic Debate is set to begin at 9p.m. It'll also be available to livestream on CNN.com.

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