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First Shots Fired Over Health Care

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Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) sought to pick the playing field for the early moments of tonight's debate by using a question about her increasingly vehement attacks on Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) to challenge the frontrunner on the issue of health care.

"My plan will cover everyone and it will be affordable," said Clinton. "Senator Obama's plan does not cover everyone."

She went on to reiterate a point she has made on the campaign trail lately -- that Obama is distorting her positions on health care. "We should have a good debate that uses accurate information not false, misleading and discredited information."

Obama replied with praise of Clinton for a "good" plan but quickly noted that Clinton's own campaign has misled voters throughout the country about whether his proposal would leave 15 million people uninsured or not. "The Clinton campaign has constantly sent out negative attacks on us," said Obama. "We haven't whined about it because I understand that is the nature of these campaigns."

That was not the end of the debate over health care between the two candidates -- not by a longshot.

Clinton went back at Obama by casting him as a political innocent who by not proposing universal health care at the start ensures the failure of his plan to bring it about. She also threw the hardest punch of the debate so far by suggesting the language used in Obama's direct mail against her sounded as if "the health insurance companies and Republicans wrote it."

She repeated several times that universal health care is a "core Democratic value" and wondered aloud about what would have happened to Social Security if FDR had not made it universal.

Obama retorted that he believed in universal "health care as does Senator Clinton" and argued that there is very little difference between their two plans.

Health care is the steadiest ground on which Clinton can fight. She is incredibly well versed in the issue -- as well or better than any Democrat in the country. But she didn't score a clear win over Obama just now; both candidates reiterated their points (and differences) without one or the other gaining any particular advantage.

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 26, 2008; 9:25 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Social Security was not made "universal" by FDR. Many groups of workers and self-employed have been added to the system since the beginning and today it is almost universal.

I expected HRC to be aware of this and was surprised to hear her erroneously use the Social Security sytem to support her proposal for the Government to require everyone to buy into the health insurance program.

I am also somewhat disappointed that this has not been discussed in "Fact Check" discussions. FDR's Social Security did not start as a "universal" program.

Posted by: brian.e.walls | February 27, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse

I would support Clinton over Obama, even though I am lending toward John McCain, the reason Clinton is not successful to uncover Obama, is because she is not tough enough on him, and does not confrint him or catch his double talk enough. I could easily win a debate with him, and if I was a moderator of a debate they both would certainly be asked tougher questions, and I am sure Clinton would be the better candidate. Like the first question I would ask Obama in the area of Foreign Policy is if he feels that the CIA's Operation Cyclone is connected to and had anything to do with 911. On healthcare, Obama talks about imported drugs that have dangerous ingredients, yet on his website he says in order to fight drug commpanies that over charge, he will open the market to imported and generic drugs. What double talk, and this is where Clinton is failing, because she does not catch him on these kind of things. LAstly the media is giving him a free ride, because they chose not to expose or scrutinize him. In the Texas debate he completely twisted and distorted a story about a rifle platoon in Afghanistan, and the press did not make a big deal about it. Also his wife is a racist, and she gets no scrutiny in thepress for her racial message.

Posted by: RedSeaForeignNational | February 27, 2008 8:03 AM | Report abuse


I have downloaded and read Senator Clinton's health care plan. None of the questions I posed above are answered there.

Mandated coverage for individuals and families could potentially be a significant financial burden upon many middle class families. What percentage of their income would they be required to pay for health care coverage? Even a figure sounding as low as 5% would be $2,500-3,000 for a typical middle class family.

Posted by: Koreen | February 27, 2008 1:44 AM | Report abuse

Says the smug disdainful Hillary: "About 20% of the people who are uninsured have the MEANS to buy insurance; they're often young people who think they're immortal! Except when the illness or accident strikes..."

Hillary's so out of touch with real people, so locked inside the beltway, that she is blaming 9.4million (of America's 47 million) uninsured people for not buying insurance 'cuz we're mixed up about our mortality?--i.e., we're deluded and it's *our* fault?

Here in Maine we occasionally hear similar but slightly less offensive feedback from our state legislators. On paper, you see, the health insurance system sponsored by the state of Maine is a model for what many would like to see on a national/federal level. Bulk buying to drive prices down for middle class Mainers. Cheaper than buying directly from the 2 health insurance providers that do business in Maine. Great for everyone, including independent contractors and small business people, like me.

However, for a healthy individual without children (older for sure than Hillary's "young people"--and p.s., interesting way to, um, court the youth demographic, Hillary) basic health care coverage is $400/month, plus a $3000 deductible.

That's nearly $8,000 for one year, for one person, for health insurance for this *lauded* model program. Is that what we'll get at a national level from a democratic president? (either of them?) probably...if we're lucky! Do I buy the state's insurance? No. Is it because I believe I'm immortal? Probably not. But $8k is a lot of dough.

It never rang true when Hillary would rant about "fighting" for me. Patronizing! Disingenuous! I don't need someone to fight for me, much less posture that they will. But to hear that same person sneering about 20% of all people not having health insurance because they're too stupid to buy it...even if Obama doesn't have a better solution at least he's not insulting.

Posted by: susandoran | February 27, 2008 1:40 AM | Report abuse

Obama is not telling the truth by saying insurance companies wanting everyone to purchase their product. Note buying product and getting covered are two different concepts. You can be insured, but may not be covered all the time. Everyone knows HMOs do not want to cover people with high risks. Without mandate, there will be no way to prevent HMOs from denying coverage. This is the potential evil of Obama's plan., by allowing people be left out. Clinton was too gracious to point it out, to his face, that he uses exactly the same argument as his HMO bosses.

The problem with today's heath is not the poor cannot get care, it is those people whose work do not provide health care coverage, those who need constant change of jobs, or who owns a small business and have to purchase insurance by themselves. For these people, unexpected illness can destroy lives. We have seen too many of such unexpected catastrophes around us, and each time when I donated to the father of a sick child, husband of sick wife, I alway thought, why couldn't we pool this money so all of us could be cared when such misfortune falls?

Today's health care system is a one way ticket to the greedyland. On of Obama's adviser simply believe the ever increasing health cost is a good thing for economy. In theory might it be, it is the life of real human beings we are talking about, and how you value humanity in market terms?

I think Clinton's plan may not be perfect, it is in the right direction. On the other hand, Obama's plan will only be one of the largest give aways of taxpayer dollars to the insurance industry.

Posted by: work2play | February 27, 2008 1:09 AM | Report abuse

HRC is wrong about Soc.Sec. it is not universial. If you don't pay in you don't get SS.

Posted by: crete | February 26, 2008 11:57 PM | Report abuse

Both are talking about health care as if it is like the Sun... an unlimited resource. We have had more and more dollars chasing the same health care resources for decades.

They programs would feed the fuel in what has been the industry with the highest inflation by such a high factor that it has backfired into the loss of jobs overseas. That is particularly so with respect to the auto industry.

As unions have forced companies to pay more and more in benefit costs, they have gone under. The result of that is that unemployment is the is a failure to pay mortgages. The places where the worst loses in Subprime Lending have been in the Midwest.

NONE of them are talking about making the INFRASTRUCTURE of health care better. What is it we NEED? More hospitals. More doctors. More nurses. More technicians. More test equipment.

BUT NO, we are going to pay more and more chasing the same services.... and put people out of work while doing it again and again and again....

Posted by: omarkhyam1951 | February 26, 2008 11:33 PM | Report abuse

Desperately seeking Hillary - Part II, Vetting

I wouldn't be betting the vetting is complete -

Just where are Senator Clinton's tax returns? Our tax returns up to and including 2006 are in the file cabinet. Senator Clinton loaned $4-million to her campaign. Where ever does her income come from?

And, while I'm at it, where are the 10,000 pages of records delineating her activities in the Whote House between 1992 and 2000? She claims to gained "experience" during this period, but is unable (or unwilling) to produce the records.

Oh, I forgot, the press has been too hard on Senator Clinton...we need to leave to these questions unanswered. The answers aren't relevant to Democrats anyway...she will let the country know the answers once she is nominated by the Democrats.

Understanding politics isn't all that easy is it?

Posted by: Vunderlutz | February 26, 2008 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Both are talking about health care as if it is like the Sun... an unlimited resource. We have had more and more dollars chasing the same health care resources.

They programs would feed the fuel in what has been the industry with the highest inflation by such a high factor that has backfired into the loss of jobs overseas.

As unions have forced companies to pay more and more in benefit costs, they have gone under. The result of that is that the Subprime Lending because people cannot afford their mortgage payments.

NONE of them are talking about making the INFRASTRUCTURE of health care better. More hospitals. More doctors. More nurses. More technicians. More test equipment.

BUT NO, we are going to pay more and more chasing the same services.... and put people out of work while doing it again and again....

Posted by: omarkhyam1951 | February 26, 2008 11:21 PM | Report abuse

svreader, the answers are not in the plan. It doesn't say a single word about compliance, and that is the entire specific issue that makes her plan universal and Obama's not. People care about healthcare for everyone. But a principle is not a plan.

Posted by: wharwood | February 26, 2008 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Universal healthcare is a core Democratic value? Becaue she says so? But that's not what HRC is talking about. Clinton's plan does not "provide" anything. It requires people to buy something on pain of penalty, with an unspecified promise of a probable subsidy. Its nonsensical to enforce a "mandate." If you can't afford it, how will you pay the fine? How will the government decide if you shouldn't have cable tv and instead have the official plan? Its a purposefully naive and authoritarian approach that will never pass a legislature. And the social security jab is lame and inapposite: 1. her plan is not an entitlement because she is not promising that it will be subsidized if you cant afford it; 2. social security pays out relative to what you put in, duh, and it topped off from the treasury when it runs too low to pay its specific commitments. It does not rely on universal participation in concept or fact.

Posted by: wharwood | February 26, 2008 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Hillary said that to fix NAFTA, she will "Have jobs fixing solar panels on every home and create 5 milliom jobs within her term..Construction jobs??? oh yes thats what every displaced worker needs, a temporary job fixing homes. I almost fell out of my chair on that one. While Obama when asked what he would do to fix NAFTA he said that he would push for new energy and better standards for competing with foreign markets Newer tecnologies for our workers, training and investing in their future in the workplace so that we can be once again at the top..he said more but these two was a markedly difference in his 'wider vision' for the future of American jobs.
Go Obama

Posted by: grdn_nell | February 26, 2008 10:12 PM | Report abuse

cal --

Every one of your points is covered in detail in her proposal.

The bigger question is this.

Why do people care more about Obama's charisma than they do about health care for every American?

Its a tragedy.

Posted by: svreader | February 26, 2008 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Senator Clinton has not explained key elements of her health care plan. How will persons who do not purchase mandated health care coverage be penalized? Will money be taken without their consent from their paychecks, will they have to pay when they file their income tax returns with the IRS?

What exact level of tax credits is Senator Clinton offering to individuals and families to make health care "affordable?" As tens of millions of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, any significant additional expense, will weaken their financial security. Is Senator Clinton promising to make health care coverage virtually free for tens of millions of lower middle class working families?

Other than likely modest tax incentives, what will prevent smaller companies from dropping worker's health care coverage, if they will then be mandated to purchase it on their own?

These are important questions which do not seem to be answered by Senator Clinton or at her website.

Posted by: Koreen | February 26, 2008 9:53 PM | Report abuse

why the rap on obama that he can't handle hillary's combative finger waving overly earnest wonk vibe? he's doing just fine... very substantive... calmly responding to her rants point by point...

Posted by: avantgarlic | February 26, 2008 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Real life people will suffer and die for lack of proper health care.

Thanks to Obama and his supporters its most likely not going to happen.

Its sad, but nothing seems to get Americans to focus on issues rather than surface style.

Posted by: svreader | February 26, 2008 9:47 PM | Report abuse

That was just disgraceful on the part of Clinton. Not exactly presidential tone or timber. It came across as being completely tone deaf. Surreal is the right word. And we have had 8, some might argue 16 years of surreal. Time to move on.

Posted by: kpkfusion | February 26, 2008 9:46 PM | Report abuse

hrc the gw enabler

Posted by: muaddib_7 | February 26, 2008 9:41 PM | Report abuse

good point dyork. and even when they had democratic control, she didn't have much luck working with them either.

Posted by: muaddib_7 | February 26, 2008 9:38 PM | Report abuse

For all the talk about Hillary Hillary Hillary, this Barack guy is pretty good. He knows his stuff, he exudes a calm confidence, and he doesn't back down. Think I'll vote for him in November.

Posted by: novamatt | February 26, 2008 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Not to go on a rant or anything but sucks. Streaming is horrible compared to CNN debates. I wonder if it is connected to the problems Microsoft is having with hotmail right now.

Posted by: CH1234 | February 26, 2008 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Hillary hoped for a Democratic President abd Democratic Congress. I seem to remember that her husband had no luck working with a Democratic Congress.

Posted by: dyork | February 26, 2008 9:33 PM | Report abuse

apparently though those green collar jobs didn't make it to new york...

Posted by: muaddib_7 | February 26, 2008 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Hillary lost or at best had a draw on Health Care and that is her big topic. That doesn't bode well for her. And she is not doing well on NAFTA.

Posted by: dyork | February 26, 2008 9:30 PM | Report abuse

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