The first official Republican presidential debate Thursday night in Cleveland could venture into health policy topics such as replacing Obamacare, Medicaid expansion and the future of Medicare, but candidates are expected to shy away from specifics.
Stuart Butler, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said it's unlikely any candidate will discuss detailed health policy ideas during the debate.
With 10 of them vying for precious minutes and hoping to score a good soundbite, they will probably speak only in generic terms about their abilities, he said. Each candidate is expected to get seven to nine minutes to speak during the 90 minutes of debate time.
It's also a bit early on in the campaign for particularly wonky discussions on a national stage, he said.
“You're not going to see anything interesting about healthcare at this debate,” he said. “I'd be amazed. Especially at this point in the campaign.”
With Ohio Gov. John Kasich on the stage, who along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie agreed to expand Medicaid in his state, the issue of whether states should expand could be brought up. The other governor who will be on the stage, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, refused to expand in his state and he and other candidates have criticized the concept.
A couple of weeks ago, candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said at a forum in New Hampshire that a plan is needed to “phase out' Medicare. That came just as the annual trustees report found that the Affordable Care Act has helped the program's financial solvency.
The ACA will probably get a lot of flak during the debate, but most candidates have stayed away from specific proposals to replace it.
Some ideas candidates have mentioned include tax credits (Sen. Marco Rubio), a catastrophic coverage system (Bush), allowing consumers to buy insurance across state lines (Sen. Ted Cruz), health savings accounts (Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon) and .
The debate airs at 9 P.M. Eastern on the Fox News network .