|Updated: 9/25/2012 9:32 pm
||Published: 9/25/2012 8:59 pm
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - Republican congressional hopeful Tom Cotton and Democratic rival Gene Jeffress both said during a debate Tuesday night that they believe the nation's health care system is imperfect, but they disagreed over whether the federal law overhauling it should be repealed.
The law was a focal point during the brief debate, which also included the Libertarian and Green Party candidates running for Arkansas' only U.S. House seat currently held by a Democrat. The south Arkansas seat is up for grabs since U.S. Rep. Mike Ross is retiring.
Cotton, an Army veteran and former management consultant, said repealing the federal health care law would be one of his priorities if elected to Congress. Cotton said he wanted to replace the law with other reforms, such as allowing consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines.
"The first step is to repeal that law, which is offensive to a free society and a free people," Cotton said. After the law is repealed, he said, the goal would be to "implement new patient-centered, market-based reforms that are going to help people get access to quality care at affordable prices."
Jeffress, a state senator and former schoolteacher, agreed that the nation's health care system isn't perfect but stopped short of saying he supported the federal law. After the debate, Jeffress told reporters he was opposed to repealing the law but didn't know if he would have voted for it in Congress.
"It's much better than anything we've had in the past, absolutely, but yet we can fix it some," Jeffress said. "I'm not sure exactly what all we need to do with it, but there are some things hopefully we can improve it upon."
Libertarian candidate Bobby Tullis, a former state representative, also advocated for the law's repeal and said he blames both parties for problems with the nation's health care.
"Democrats and Republicans are both culpable in giving us the system we've got, and it sucks," Tullis said.
Green Party nominee Joshua Drake, a Hot Springs attorney, said he's opposed to repealing the law but said he supports universal health care.
"Health care is a human right," Drake said. "All of the successful nations of this world recognize health care as a human right and they do a much better job of taking care of their people than this country does."
Ross, who announced last year he would not seek re-election, won his 2010 race after touting his opposition to the health care law and has voted to repeal the measure. Republicans are confident they can win his seat following his retirement and newly drawn boundaries that add traditionally GOP-leaning regions into the district.
Tuesday night's debate was hosted by the National Park Community College Student Government Association.
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