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Health Care Rises As Big Issue Among Democratic Senate Hopefuls

Abortion and health care are dividing some of the candidates in the race for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat. City Year founder Alan Khazei, venture capitalist Stephen Pagliuca and Congressman Michael Capuano said Attorney General Martha Coakley is making a mistake in opposing the health insurance legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives this weekend.

The House bill forbids the use of government funds for insurance plans that provide abortions. Coakley said Monday that she could not have voted for it.

"Given where I am, I would not have. More importantly, if that comes to the Senate, if I am elected, I do not believe that we have to compromise," Coakley said.

Capuano said he respects what Coakley said, but "she's dead wrong on this issue. ... She would basically throw the whole concept of improving our health care system under the bus for her definition of perfection."

Khazei said if House Democrats listened to Coakley, universal health care would be dead.

“While I oppose the inclusion of the provision in the bill, casting a no vote would be to side with Joe Lieberman and the insurance companies that want to kill healthcare reform," Pagliuca said in a statement.

It is the first major division among the democratic candidates in the campaign so far, and it comes amid criticism that they have yet to agree to a statewide televised debate before the Dec. 8th primary election.

Coakley said she's willing to have more debates before the primary. She added that she considers the many forums the candidates have held, most of which have not been broadcast, to be debates.

"We've had many debates we will have many more including a couple this week that have been scheduled and we are looking at talking to all of the media outlets about a consortium," Coakley said. She has drawn criticism for not appearing at a forum on Sunday because of a previous commitment.

Tuesday, a group of news organizations including WBUR formally requested a statewide televised debate to be held on Dec. 2. Khazei's campaign said holding only one statewide televised debate is not enough. Capuano said he would debate every opportunity he gets because it's important for voters to see and measure the candidates. And says people who don't want to debate are afraid of something.

"Those people who think they can hide, find, I think, voters will take that into consideration," Capuano said.

Coakley said it is important to be accessible, but scheduling all four Democratic candidates to be in one place is a challenge.

This program aired on November 10, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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