By Josh Zeitlin, contributing editor
Health care accounts for nearly a fifth of the U.S. economy—but so far in the presidential and vice presidential debates, the candidates running to lead the United States have had little opportunity to discuss their policies.
During Sunday's second presidential debate, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump were asked just one health-related question from an audience member: "Affordable Care Act [ACA], known as Obamacare, it is not affordable. Premiums have gone up. Deductibles have gone up. Copays have gone up. Prescriptions have gone up. And the coverage has gone down. What will you do to bring the cost down and make coverage better?"
Both candidates indicated that the solution lies in changing—to some degree—the ACA, but as Forbes' Bruce Lee writes, beyond that we did not "get any more insight in(to) how the candidates will address the many key health and health care issues swirling around our country."
To determine some of those hard-hitting health care questions lacking from this year's presidential debates, American Health Line's Josh Zeitlin asked several health experts to contribute questions they'd ask Clinton and Trump. Here's how they responded.
Director of health policy research, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
What is your plan to encourage states that have not participated in the Medicaid expansion to participate?
Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics, Harvard University; former senior health care advisor, Obama Presidential Campaign
Who would you appoint to lead key health agencies, and what would you charge them to do?
President, American Action Forum; former director, Congressional Budget Office; former director of domestic and economic policy, McCain Presidential Campaign
How much of a role do you believe the federal government should have in determining how we as individuals spend our health care dollars?
Founder, Aledade; former National Coordinator for Health IT
Donald Trump: You have said that it's smart to take full advantage of available government subsidies, even if one disagrees with the policy. Should people who qualify for Obamacare exchange subsidies make sure to apply for them?
Hillary Clinton: You recently released a policy statement on the importance of competition in markets. How do you think that smaller independent physician practices can thrive in a value-based world?
David and Diane Steffy Research Fellow, Hoover Institution; Advisor, Marco Rubio Presidential Campaign; Policy Director, Romney-Ryan Presidential Campaign
Do you plan to continue, expand upon, or scale back the payment delivery reforms contained in the Affordable Care Act?
Do you believe the efforts that the Obama Administration has undertaken in this regard have been successful?
President and CEO, The Leapfrog Group
A recent study in the prestigious medical journal BMJ estimated that over 200,000 people die every year from preventable errors, accidents, and infections in hospitals. That would make hospital errors the third leading cause of death in America. Yet the United States invests less than one-half of one percent of our research dollars on best practices for running hospitals so they minimize deadly errors. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare started changing how they pay hospitals, so hospitals can receive higher payments if they perform well, and we've seen some improvements in safety but the problem is still dramatic. What would your administration do to protect patients from harm in hospitals?
E.J. Barone Professor of Economics and Health Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
What are you going to do for the uninsured? Specifically, what would Hillary Clinton do about the currently uninsured, and what would Donald Trump do about those who are uninsured now and those who would be uninsured if the Affordable Care Act was repealed.
We see issues with monopoly power in all parts of the health care sector, including with hospitals, insurers, and pharmaceutical companies, even if the issues are far from identical. That can lead to higher prices, lower quality, and less innovation. What are you going to do about monopoly power in health care?
Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School
I'd like to know how they'd deal with consolidation in the health care industry, and in particular among providers. Is the answer more antitrust enforcement? Divestitures? The public option? Or something else?
Founder and president, National Committee for Quality Assurance
Mergers and consolidations have created monopolies in many localities resulting in inability of insurers to negotiate affordable rates or keep low performing hospitals out of their networks. Despite efforts on the part of the FTC, the consolidation has continued. What would you do to encourage healthy competition among hospitals and specialty groups?
Professor and interim chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco
What specifically would you do to lower health care costs that would avoid the predictable backlash regarding rationing?
Wachter said, "I'd hope for an answer that reflected some understanding of the amount of low-value care we provide (much of which could be eliminated without "rationing"), the inefficiencies embedded in the chaotic current system (with substantial cost reductions possible through better coordination, electronic health record use, patient engagement), etc. But I'd also hope for an answer that reflected on the fact that we may ultimately need to make some hard choices, since we simply can't do everything for everybody. Taking account of our current political climate, expecting that answer is wishful thinking, of course."