The "Fundamental Weakness" of Sen. Obama's Health Care Plan

As Hillary said on Wednesday: "Senator Obama's plan does not, and cannot, cover all Americans. He called his plan universal, then he called it 'virtually universal,' but it is not either."
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Note: I'm the Clinton campaign's Internet Director

As Hillary said on Wednesday: "If we don't get universal health care, then we will be betraying the Democratic Party's principles. And it's important that those who will caucus on January 3rd understand this difference. Senator Obama's plan does not, and cannot, cover all Americans. He called his plan universal, then he called it "virtually universal," but it is not either. When it comes to truth in labeling, it simply flunks the test."

Paul Krugman today: "From the beginning, advocates of universal health care were troubled by the incompleteness of Barack Obama's plan, which unlike those of his Democratic rivals wouldn't cover everyone. But they were willing to cut Mr. Obama slack on the issue, assuming that in the end he would do the right thing. Now, however, Mr. Obama is claiming that his plan's weakness is actually a strength. What's more, he's doing the same thing in the health care debate he did when claiming that Social Security faces a "crisis" -- attacking his rivals by echoing right-wing talking points. ...

"The fundamental weakness of the Obama plan was apparent from the beginning. Still, as I said, advocates of health care reform were willing to cut Mr. Obama some slack. But now Mr. Obama, who just two weeks ago was telling audiences that his plan was essentially identical to the Edwards and Clinton plans, is attacking his rivals and claiming that his plan is superior. It isn't -- and his attacks amount to cheap shots. ...

"Although he declared, in his speech announcing the plan, that "my plan begins by covering every American," it didn't -- and he shied away from doing what was necessary to make his claim true. Now, in the effort to defend his plan's weakness, he's attacking his Democratic opponents from the right -- and in so doing giving aid and comfort to the enemies of reform."

More on the differences between Hillary's plan and Sen. Obama's plan on the Fact Hub:

"Sen. Obama claims there is no significant difference between his health care plan and Hillary's health care plan. But unlike Hillary's American Health Choices Plan, Sen. Obama's plan is not universal. Even Sen. Obama admits that his plan is not universal, and does not guarantee coverage. Experts estimate that Sen. Obama's plan will leave 15 million people uninsured. Sen. Obama has offered a variety of explanations for failing to cover all Americans. Sen. Obama's spokesman claims that requiring coverage should be left to the states; Sen. Obama's advisor says mandates are too ambitious and unpopular with middle class voters, and Sen. Obama says that he'll figure out how to cover everyone later. But Sen. Obama's Health Care Task Force understands that Sen. Obama's plan just isn't good enough. Back in 2004, Sen. Obama sponsored legislation that created a Health Care Task Force. Now in 2007, Sen. Obama's Task Force has recommended an individual mandate to provide universal coverage."

UPDATE: Full text of letter from Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle to Obama campaign manager David Plouffe:

David Plouffe
Obama for America
P.O. Box 8102
Chicago, IL 60680

Dear David:

I am writing concerning a false advertisement you are currently airing, in which Senator Obama claims that his health care plan would "cover everyone." Your advertisement not only contradicts the judgment of health care experts, but public statements by your campaign and your candidate. Senator Obama has pledged to put "honesty first" in this campaign. In that spirit I respectfully request that you stop running this ad which is misleading voters in New Hampshire.

In today's New York Times, noted economist Paul Krugman wrote that Senator Obama proposed "a relatively weak, incomplete health care plan. Although [Senator Obama] declared, in his speech announcing the plan, that 'my plan begins by covering every American,' it didn't -- and he shied away from doing what was necessary to make his claim true."

Health care author Jonathan Cohn looked at the data and concluded that, under the most optimistic scenario, Senator Obama's plan would leave "15 million people who are uninsured." The Washington Post reached a similar conclusion, finding that Senator Obama's plan would not cover "a third" of the 47 million Americans who are currently uninsured.

Additionally, a constellation of the nation's top health care experts - including MIT's Jonathan Gruber, the Kaiser Family Foundation's Diane Rowland and the Urban Institute's John Holland -- have concluded that plans like Senator Obama's, which does not include a requirement for all Americans to have health care, would leave a substantial portion of the American public without coverage.

Even Senator Obama himself has admitted that his plan would not cover everyone, calling the plan "virtually universal." Your top health care advisor, David Cutler, acknowledged that Senator Obama's plan could leave "significant pockets" of people uninsured and said Senator Obama would "deal with that when the time comes, possibly by mandating insurance."

On an issue of this magnitude Americans are looking for more than a nice ad or a good speech. It's not enough for Senator Obama to say he covers everyone, especially when that is inaccurate. The American people need a President who will take the action necessary and fight for health care for every single man woman and child. Until the time comes when Senator Obama has a plan that will cover everyone, you should stop running this false advertisement. The American people deserve an honest debate about health care.


Patti Solis Doyle
Campaign Manager
Hillary Clinton for President

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