Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama today kept up their dispute about the best strategy for expanding access to health coverage.

McCain, R-Ariz., the Republican presidential nominee, and Obama, D-Ill., the Democratic nominee, referred to health insurance several times in Hempstead, N.Y., during the third 2008 presidential debate.

McCain talked about his proposal to give every U.S. resident a $5,000 tax credit that could be used to buy health coverage.

“Take it and get anywhere in America the health care that you wish,” McCain said.

Obama, D-Ill., the Democratic nominee, talked about requiring health insurers to sell health coverage on a guaranteed-issue basis, and about offering individuals without employer-sponsored coverage the ability to buy into a plan that would be similar to the plan that covers federal employees.

Obama argued that the McCain tax credit approach would lead to the taxation of employer-sponsored health benefits and push many group plan members into the individual market.

“Insurers right now, the main restrictions on what they do is primarily state law and, under Sen. McCain’s plan, those rules would be stripped away, and you would start seeing a lot more insurance companies cherry-picking and excluding people from coverage,” Obama said.

McCain said Obama wants to require employers to offer health benefits.

“You’ll have to pay a fine if you don’t provide health insurance that Sen. Obama mandates, not the kind that you think is best for your family, your children, your employees, but the kind that he mandates for you,” McCain said. “That’s big government at its best.”