Healthcare a crucial issue on Super Tuesday

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My 6-year-old daughter was at a Super Bowl party less than 10 minutes when she jumped off a foot-high trampoline and twisted her ankle, causing it to swell. First thing monday morning, we headed to the orthopedic surgeon's office to confirm that Katie had a small fracture. She thinks the neon pink cast is really cool and she loved looking at the x-rays, but so far, her little spill cost me $1,000, which our health insurance, Anthem, should cover.

Aside from being relieved that the break wasn't worse, I can't help but think about what it must be like for the 45 million Americans without health insurance who must worry incessantly that an accident or illness could set them back tens of thousands of dollars.

Just last week, I watched a CNN newscast by medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who reported that health costs are the number one reason Americans file for bankruptcy. Voters' views on the healthcare crisis will likely play a role in the outcome on SuperTuesday, when 24 states hold primaries or caucuses to elect presidential nominees.

The Democratic candidates, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, spent a significant chunk of the last debate discussing healthcare, and both are emphasizing the issue in ads. A recorded message on my answering machine today from Clinton names "the need for quality, affordable healthcare" as one of the big challenges facing the next president. And Obama's new ads mention how difficult it was for his mother, who died of cancer, to get insurers to pay for her care.

On CNN, Dr. Gupta analyzed the senators' healthcare plans, which call for expanded coverage so more people can gain access to affordable health care. Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and John McCain propose a less ambitious approach, primarily relying on tax breaks and other changes in the marketplace to tackle the healthcare crisis. Voters who are still undecided can look at USA Today's election coverage to learn what the candidates are proposing on healthcare as well as their stance on other key issues like the economy.

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