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Democratic candidates vow to spend on healthcare

At an AARP forum in Iowa, five contenders court seniors' votes.

September 21, 2007|From the Associated Press

DAVENPORT, IOWA — Five Democratic presidential candidates pledged during an AARP forum Thursday night to spend more on healthcare and bolster retirement programs of special importance to seniors.

All five pledged to protect Social Security, revamp Medicare's prescription drug program and expand home healthcare programs.

Former Sen. John Edwards sounded his theme that lobbying by big drug and insurance companies has blocked efforts to expand health coverage, a dig at New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom he has accused of taking campaign money from those industries.

"They stand between America and the universal healthcare we need," Edwards said. "We desperately need a president who is not working on compromising with these people."

Clinton did not respond directly but touted her experience on working throughout her career to expand healthcare.

"I've been working to achieve quality affordable healthcare for all those years," said Clinton, who earlier this week unveiled her plan to provide universal healthcare. "This is a system that, unfortunately, makes a lot of money for a lot of people."

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said he'd focus on preventive healthcare and building new efficiency into the system.

"I don't think we need to create a lot of new bureaucracies," he said. Richardson touted his hands-on experience as a governor, saying he was "the only one up here who has actually had to deal with healthcare."

Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. said he's demonstrated the ability to stand up to insurance companies.

Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd touted his experience in Congress, which includes sponsorship of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois did not participate in the forum at the historic Adler Theatre. The event was co-sponsored by Iowa Public Television and was broadcast live on PBS stations in the state as well as on 265 public television stations nationwide.

Debate organizers did not invite Democrats Dennis J. Kucinich and Mike Gravel. Though both are candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, neither has an active campaign in Iowa.

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