Keystone: Schaffer, Udall debate health care |

Keystone: Schaffer, Udall debate health care

Jonathan Batuello
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

KEYSTONE, Colorado ” Although bitter rivals for a U.S. Senate seat, Congressman Mark Udall and former congressman Bob Schaffer found some common ground Saturday when discussing medical issues at the Colorado Medical Society conference in Keystone.

Schaffer and Udall both expressed the sentiment that the medical field is in need of a better patient-provider relationship.

“My belief is that we have to do everything we can to pursue every strategy possible to reconnect the relationship between patient and provider,” said Schaffer, a Republican.

“When you look at the answers that have been devised in the halls of government, whether the state capitol or Washington D.C., it seems that too often that relationship is second-guessed.”

Udall, a Democrat, shared a similar sentiment as he stated the need for everyone to have access to insurance.

“Health care needs to be about patients and doctors, not insurance companies and bureaucracies,” Udall said. “We need a system where every American has affordable access to quality health care.”

Locked in a pitched battle for the seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, the two candidates have disagreed passionately on many major issues, notably energy development and environmental protection.

But in their seventh debate of the campaign, Schaffer and Udall agreed over the need for better access and affordability to health insurance for Americans, but they support different ways to reach that goal.

Schaffer talked about similar industries forming a coalition when purchasing health insurance, the ability to purchase insurance nationwide and a refundable tax-credit program that would allow low-income patients to apply the credit toward their own insurance.

“It is the only option, that I know of, that provides the highest level of incentive for preventative health for maintaining the health of oneself and one’s family and also to ask those market-place kinds of questions that we ask …” Schaffer said.

Udall, however, noted that Colorado has more than 800,000 uninsured residents and said there should be comprehensive health-care reform, including: expanding the children’s health-insurance program; providing families with health-tax credits; providing small-businesses access to private and public health-care pools; banning the practice of barring people from purchasing health insurance because of pre-existing conditions; and directing the federal government to barter for lower prices on prescription drugs.

Both candidates also indicated that Medicare needed some reforms to make it effective. Udall and Schaffer discussed looking at the financial needs in the re-assessment.

Schaffer looked at having surveys of market cost in providing health-care and more competition between medical supplies and goods.

Udall looked at making sure the country could cover investments in Medicare through the end of the war in Iraq and the SafeAct, which would put a commission in place to come up with a list of reforms to Medicare and Social Security.

The final question the candidates answered was on anti-trust laws against insurance companies, which both candidates supported.

Udall discussed his ideal of wanting to see more power given to the patients and doctors and less to the insurance company, though he did acknowledge a need by both sides to work together.

“I know we have to work with the insurance industry as well, but sometimes adversaries have virtues,” he said.

Schaffer had similar comments and recognized a need for more concern for local communities.

“Just one of many strategies … would be to provide the exemptions physicians need in order to band together and consider the needs of their community and state and within certain provider areas and negotiate directly with these large conglomerated insurance companies for rates,” Schaffer said.

Jonathan Batuello can be reached at (970) 668-4653 or

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