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During the final Republican primary debate Thursday, just days before the primaries kick off, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he would delink health insurance and employers so that people won't lose coverage if they switch or lose their jobs.
Sen. Cruz added that he would support allowing people to buy insurance across state lines and would expand health savings accounts. Both ideas have been Republican talking points for years.
The debate in Iowa, where the nation's voting begins Monday, was notable for the absence of GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who held a separate rally in defiance of debate sponsor Fox News.
Like most of the debates for this primary, health policy was on the back burner as candidates focused on terrorism, immigration and foreign policy.
Democrats and Republicans running for the presidential nominations have said that insurance shouldn't be tied to employers but few alternatives have been articulated.
And in fact, one of the tenets of the Affordable Care Act is that people can buy health insurance from an exchange so they don't have to depend on employer-sponsored insurance.
Sen. Cruz emphasized that he would “repeal every word” of the ACA and said the health care reform law is a “job-killer” that has caused skyrocketing premiums and forced people to lose doctors.
Opponents of the ACA have frequently said the law has forced employers to cut jobs and worker hours but recent studies show no evidence of that.
Sen. Cruz also said he believes people should carry inexpensive catastrophic insurance, instead of coverage that encourages preventive measures.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich brought up mental health treatment and said those with mental illnesses and people with addiction problems should receive help instead of incarceration.
“The time has come to stop ignoring the mentally ill in this country,” he said.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he would reduce federal spending and that as his first move, he would defund Planned Parenthood. Congress recently passed a bill to cut funding from the organization and repeal the ACA, but President Barack Obama quickly vetoed it.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul also participated in Thursday's debate.
Shannon Muchmore writes for Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Business Insurance.
When Congress gave final approval this month to legislation repealing key provisions of the health care reform law, it was the first time lawmakers had done so since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010.