- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 12, 2017

PROVO, Utah (AP) - Candidates vying to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah said at the first debate of the race that former President Barack Obama’s health-care law should be repealed in favor of a more free-market system.

Health care was a major topic of conversation as five congressional hopefuls took the stage in Provo, the Daily Herald of Provo reported (http://bit.ly/2uSiiIl).

Three of the candidates were Republicans: Provo mayor John Curtis, former lawmaker Christopher Herrod, and Tanner Ainge, son of Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge.

They struck similar notes on how to reduce health care costs, touting market competition and individual choice.

Curtis, the popular mayor of Provo, said the city government kept employee health care costs under control by introducing the choice of a high-deductible plan.

“For the first time, employees are engaged in the decisions and they’re making good decisions,” Curtis said.

Herrod, a home loan officer in Provo who won a GOP convention vote by party delegates, railed against socialized health care offered in his wife’s home country of Ukraine. He said he and his father saved money by shopping around at different hardware stores.

“When is the last time we did that with health care?” Herrod asked.

Ainge spoke in favor of health savings accounts, a tax-free way for people to set aside money for medical care. Like other candidates, he said that would allow the free market to do away with wasteful spending.

“We have to reintroduce choice and competition into the health care marketplace,” Ainge said.

The three will face off in a Republican primary election in August, and the winner will go up against Democratic physician Kathie Allen. She didn’t appear at the Tuesday debate hosted by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity.

The other two participants in the debate, Independent American candidate Jason Christensen and Libertarian candidate Joe Buchman, have already secured spots on the ballot.

They’re all running for the U.S. House of Representatives seat vacated by Chaffetz, who served as chairman of the powerful House Governmental Oversight Committee

Chaffetz’s surprise decision to step down left to spend more time with his family an enticing open seat that attracted a crowded field competing in what’s considered one of the most conservative congressional districts in the country.

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