Asked if they would support changing the Medicare program to one where future recipients receive a federal voucher to buy private insurance, Walz said he wouldn’t.
“Medicare has been the single greatest anti-poverty program this country has ever seen,” Walz said.
Quist answered, “Well, I don’t think so,” before turning the topic to the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.
Dubbing it the “Unaffordable Care Act,” Quist said the reform supported by Walz interjects government deeply into the health care system and will inevitably make it less efficient and more bureaucratic.
“It spends money we don’t have,” Quist said. “And how many of you think we can spend money we don’t have?”
Walz talked about the more popular provisions in the bill, including requirements that children be covered on their parents’ insurance policy until age 26, a prohibition on insurance companies denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and the promise that it will provide health care for more than 50 million uninsured Americans.
But Walz focused on the reforms in the bill, saying they will reduce medical costs by focusing on healthy outcomes rather than simply reimbursing providers for procedures performed in clinics and hospitals.
“This thing starts to get a handle on it,” Walz said of mounting health care costs.
The debate was moderated by a pair of Mankato natives and retired radio newsmen — Gary Eichten of Minnesota Public Radio and Pete Steiner of KTOE. One of the few jabs of the debate followed Quist’s ribbing of Eichten about the public funding for MPR, paid by taxpayers like himself.
“Even though you owe me one, I’m not going to collect,” Quist said.
Walz then pointed out that Quist has repeatedly taken farm subsidies over the years.
“You owe Gary about $600,000 on the farm bill,” Walz said.
Quist responded by noting that Walz voted for a farm bill that continues many of those subsidies.
“So he’s going to criticize me for the program that he voted for and supports,” Quist said. “... This is really low politics.”
Sponsored by Debate Minnesota, Tuesday night’s 1st District run-in — the last between the two candidates before the Nov. 6 election — is scheduled to be rebroadcast on MPR at noon today. In the Mankato area, MPR’s news channel can be heard at 90.5 FM.