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Health care
Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls propose solutions to deal with one of the most critical issues facing millions of Americans. Read the stances of the presidential candidates below. The views of the vice presidential candidates are shown where available.
DEMOCRATS
Barack Obama
Would create a national health insurance program for individuals who do not have employer-provided health care and who do not qualify for other existing federal programs. Does not mandate individual coverage for all Americans, but requires coverage for all children. Allows individuals below age 25 to be covered through their parents' plans.

Allows individuals to choose between the new public insurance program and private insurance plans that meet certain coverage standards. The Obama campaign Web site says the coverage would have benefits similar to those offered to Congress through the Federal Employees Benefits Program. Plan would expand eligibility for Medicaid and State's Children's Health Insurance Program.

Offer an income-based federal subsidy for people who don't get insurance from an employer or qualify for government plans like Medicaid.

Obama estimates the cost at between $50 billion and $65 billion, to be paid for by eliminating Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250,000.

Regarding employer contributions toward healthcare costs, the Obama Web site states: "Employers that do not offer or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees will be required to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan." The plan calls for small businesses to be exempt from the requirement and some could receive a tax credit that helps reduce healthcare costs, according to the Web site.

Says states can continue to experiment with health care plans as long as they meet the minimum standards of the national plan.

Proposes investing $10 billion a year during the next five years to implement standards-based electronic health information systems, which would include electronic health records.

Would allow Americans to purchase medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe and prices are lower than outside the United States. Says he would repeal the ban that prevents the U.S. from negotiating with drug companies.
Joe Biden
Supports expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program to allow more children to participate. Wants to give uninsured Americans the opportunity to purchase an insurance plan that mirrors the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan and give people 55 and older the chance to buy in to early coverage under Medicare.

Says on Biden's Senate page that he advocates bringing health care costs under control and increasing the quality of care by placing a greater emphasis on prevention and wellness to contain health care costs associated with chronic disease. Would also establish a Comparative Effectiveness Panel to evaluate treatment protocols, medical devices and new technology, and establish best practices for management of chronic diseases.

Believes in improving Medicare's prescription drug program by allowing the federal government to directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and speed up availability of generic drugs.

Advocates increasing funding for biomedical research and protect the privacy of individual's medical records.

REPUBLICANS
John McCain
Opposes federally mandated universal coverage. Believes competition will improve the quality of health insurance.

Supports health care tax dividends for low-income Americans, medical malpractice reform, improving electronic record-keeping, expanding health savings accounts, and encouraging small businesses to band together to negotiate lower rates with health care providers

McCain campaign Web site states, "Families should be able to purchase health insurance nationwide, across state lines, and their policy should follow them from job to job."

Says he would reform the tax code to offer choices beyond employee-based health insurance coverage. Under the plan, every family would receive a direct refundable tax credit for $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families.

Says he would work with governors to develop a "best practice model" that states can follow. The plan would "reflect the best experience of the states to ensure these patients have access to health coverage."

Would increase awareness and promote the use of existing children's health insurance programs while expanding community health centers.

Says he would foster greater competition in the drug markets "through safe re-importation of drugs and faster production of generic drugs."

Says he would promote the rapid deployment of 21st century information systems and technology that allows doctors to practice across state lines.

Says on Web site that he would "pass medical liability reform that eliminates lawsuits directed at doctors who follow clinical guidelines and adhere to safety protocols."

Co-sponsored Combating Autism Act of 2006 and worked to ensure its enactment.
Sarah Palin
Stated on Sarah Palin for Governor Web site: "I support flexibility in government regulations that allow competition in health care that is needed and is proven to be good for the consumer, which will drive down health care costs and reduce the need for government subsidies. I also support patients in their rightful demands to have access to full medical billing information."
Obama and McCain: Key Senate Votes from 2005 through 2008

Medicare

July 15, 2008 -- The U.S. Senate votes 70-26 to override President George W. Bush's veto of the Medicare Improvement for Patients and Providers Act of 2008.

McCain: Did not vote
Obama: Did not vote

(Sources: CQ Weekly; U.S. Senate Legislation Database)
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Resources
The issues that make up American politics have many voices. Here are a few governmental organizations, interest groups and companies from across the political spectrum that are actors in the health care debate. * CNN does not endorse external sites.
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