Health Policy Finds Its Way Into Town Hall Debate

Even when the questions aren’t about health care, many of the responses are.  Here’s what President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney had to say Tuesday night about contraception, Medicare and the health law.

The town hall debate between the two candidates took place in Hempstead, N.Y.

A transcript follows.

BARACK OBAMA: Katherine, I just want to point out that when Gov. Romney’s campaign was asked about the Lilly Ledbetter bill, whether he supported it, he said: I’ll get back to you. And that’s not the kind of advocacy that women need in any economy.

Now, there are some other issues that have a bearing on how women succeed in the workplace: for example, their health care. A major difference in this campaign is that Gov. Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making. I think that’s a mistake. In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured, because this is not just a health issue. It’s an economic issue for women. It makes a difference. This is money out of that family’s pocket.

Gov. Romney not only opposed it  — he suggested that, in fact, employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage. That’s not the kind of advocacy that women need. When Gov. Romney says that we should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, there are millions of women all across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for not just contraceptive care. They rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings. That’s a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country.

MITT ROMNEY: I’d just note that I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives. And the president’s statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong.

And then let’s take the last one, championing small business. Our party has been focused on big business too long. I came through small business. I understand how hard it is to start a small business. That’s why everything I’ll do is designed to help small businesses grow and add jobs. I want to keep their taxes down on small business. I want regulators to see their job as encouraging small enterprise, not crushing it.

And the thing I find most troubling about Obamacare — well, it’s a long list — but one of the things I find most troubling is that when you go out and talk to small businesses and ask them what they think about it, they tell you it keeps them from hiring more people.

BARACK OBAMA: You know, there are some things where Gov. Romney is different from George Bush. George Bush didn’t propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform. He didn’t call for self-deportation. George Bush never suggested that we eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.

But you should pay attention to this campaign, because Gov. Romney’s made some commitments as well, and I suspect he’ll keep those, too. You know, when members of the Republican Congress say, we’re going to sign a no tax pledge so that we don’t ask a dime from millionaires and billionaires to reduce our deficit so we can still invest in education and helping kids go to college, he said: me, too. When they said, we’re going to cut Planned Parenthood funding, he said: me, too. When he said, we’re going to repeal Obamacare, first thing I’m going to do — despite the fact that it’s the same health care plan that he passed in Massachusetts and is working well — he said: me, too. That is not the kind of leadership that you need, but you should expect that those are promises he’s going to keep.

And the choice in this election is going to be whose promises are going to be more likely to help you in your life, make sure your kids can go to college, make sure that you are getting a good-paying job, making sure that Medicare and Social Security will be there for you.

MITT ROMNEY: I want to make sure that regulators see their job as encouraging small business , not crushing it. And there’s no question but that Obamacare has been an extraordinary deterrent to enterprises of all kinds hiring people. My priority is making sure that we get more people hired. If we have more people hired, if we get back manufacturing jobs, if we get back all kinds of jobs into this country, then you’re going to see rising incomes again.