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Edwards Discusses Surplus, HMOs at UNC

Edwards fielded questions from the moderator and the audience as part of Tuesdays with Friday, a discussion forum hosted by former UNC-system President Bill Friday.

Having appeared on the Fox News program "The O'Reilly Factor" and PBS' "The McLaughlin Group," Edwards showed poise and confidence while answering questions.

A major issue brought up first by Friday, then again by the audience, was HMOs. Edwards has been working with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to solve problems plaguing health care and to negotiate a bipartisan Patients' Bill of Rights.

"We are trying to create a law that instead of empowering HMOs can empower patients and the doctors," Edwards said.

He added that he wants to give patients more control over their health care and treatment decisions.

But HMOs were not the only topic of interest to audience members.

Edwards also addressed the projected $5.6 trillion budget surplus expected to be a fixture on America's political landscape for the next 10 years.

Some disagreement has broken out on Capitol Hill about how to spend the money. One option is a $1.3 trillion tax cut, proposed by President Bush.

Although Edwards said he does support a tax cut, he said the money could be used to fund public schools, give financial support to the elderly and pay off a portion of the national debt.

Another topic raised was betting on college athletics. Edwards appeared on campus last year with former men's basketball coach Dean Smith to rally support for a bill that would outlaw gambling on college athletics.

Edwards said he is not bothered by the small residence hall bets that go hand-in-hand with students and college sports but by the gambling industry that puts unnecessary pressures on college athletes.

"We don't live in a never-never land," he said. "We don't think this will stop this gambling."

Edwards also discussed the need for various education reforms.

He said more technology needs to be incorporated into schools' curricula, more prekindergarten programs like North Carolina's Smart Start must be implemented, and a team should be developed to pinpoint and solve problems in low-performing schools.

"We need to do this at a national level," he said. "(Education) is one of the things where we need to think outside of the box."

Edwards also commented on the performance of low-achieving students.

He said these students often lose interest in academics altogether after humiliation inside the classroom for incorrect answers.

"Once you've lost these students, it's so hard to get them back," he said.

Campaign finance was another issue brought up by the audience.

"Campaign finance is like trying to put a cup over quicksilver," Edwards said. "It always finds a way to get out."

A former Raleigh trial lawyer, Edwards funded his entire campaign from his own pocket.

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He said instead of raising money for TV ads, he would rather participate in forums and discussions.

And when asked about running for president, Edwards, smiled charmingly and said, "I forgot the question."

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