A Clinton Shift in Selling Health Plan
When Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) introduced her health care proposal, she emphasized its centrist nature: a business-friendly model that would allow consumers maximum choice.
But as the first voting for the 2008 nomination looms, Clinton honed in this weekend with a more traditionally liberal aspect of her plan: It would require all people to get health insurance, with a goal of achieving universal health care.
"One of my opponents leaves 15 million people out," Clinton said in Sac City on Saturday, taking a swipe at Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as she addressed a largely rural crowd at a local firehouse. "It's going to actually cascade and more and more people are going to be left out."
Her comments were a direct response to remarks Obama made earlier in the day, promoting his health care plan as the one aimed at reducing costs. He told an audience that his health plan would do more to lower costs "than any other proposal in this race." Obama has said that while he backs the goal of universal coverage, a goal many Democratic voters favor, he would not require people to buy insurance. Instead, he would encourage them to do so with more affordable plans. (His proposal does require insurance for children.)
"Cost is the number one reason that 47 million Americans do not have health insurance, and thousands more are edging toward bankruptcy every day," Obama told hundreds Saturday at the Council Bluffs high school. "That is wrong, and it's why my plan does more to cut the cost of health insurance than any other proposal in this race."
Both Clinton and former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) call for requiring health care coverage for all, which both say is the only way to achieve universal coverage. The Edwards campaign on Saturday echoed Clinton's dismissal of the Obama program. "Any candidate touting their health care plan must first meet one simple test: Does it cover everyone?" said Eric Schultz, a spokesman for Edwards. "Senator Obama's plan falls woefully short by leaving 15 million Americans without care. In the midst of a health care crisis, anything short of universal is simply inadequate."
Clinton has not explained how her mandate would be enforced -- whether, for example, people will see their wages garnished if they do not purchase health care. Jay Carson, a Clinton spokesman, said she would "work with Congress on enforcement measures." A similar health care system is being implemented in Massachusetts, but thousands of state residents remain uninsured, raising questions about how it would work at the national level.
Obama, Clinton and Edwards remain locked in a close race in Iowa, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, where the Iowa caucuses will be held Jan. 3.
-- Anne E. Kornblut
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