Get PolitiFact in your inbox.

Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan December 3, 2007

15-million is okay guess, but not a fact

Sen. Barack Obama "talks a lot about stepping up and taking responsibility and taking strong positions," Sen. Hillary Clinton said during a debate in November 2007, "but when it came time to step up and decide whether or not he would support universal health care coverage, he chose not to do that. His plan would leave 15-million Americans out."

Clinton is accurately quoting studies that estimate how many will be uninsured under Obama's plan. But some experts think the plans don't offer enough detail to create a reliable estimate for such a complex issue, casting doubt on the validity of a hard number.

Obama's plan includes a mandate to insure children, but it does not include a mandate for adults, as Clinton's plan does. That likely means not as many people will be insured, said Kenneth Thorpe, professor of health policy and management at Emory University.

Clinton believes 15-million people would be left uncovered because of that lack of mandate. She based her analysis on an article written by Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic who quoted RAND, the Urban Institute and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber.

Featured Fact-check

Realistically, though, the claim is an educated guess. Given that 47-million people are uninsured now, 15-million uninsured after Obama's plan doesn't seem unreasonable, according to several experts — it would mean that Obama succeeded in covering almost 70 percent of those currently uninsured. But neither Clinton nor Obama offer hard numbers on what income levels would qualify for what programs. Given the limited data, other experts question the hard number.

It's a tough call, but because of the disagreements here, we find her claim to be based on too many hypotheticals to rate more than a Half True.


Our Sources

CNN via New York Times, Democratic debate transcript, Nov. 15, 2007

New Republic via CBS News, Cautious Candidate, Cautious Plan, June 3, 2007

Hillary Clinton campaign, Health Care Plan

Barack Obama campaign, Health Care Plan

Interview with Sara Collins, assistant vice president of the Commonwealth Fund, Clinton vs. Obama, Nov. 16, 2007

New Hampshire Public Radio, Interview with Barack Obama, Nov. 21 2007.

Lowell (Massachusetts) Sun, "For some, health insurance reform not so affordable," Aug. 26, 2007

Boston Business Journal, "Thousands balk at health law sign-up mandate," Nov. 12, 2007

Interview with Kenneth Thorpe, professor of health policy and management at Emory University

Interview with Robert Blethen, professor of health policy and politics at Harvard School of Public Health


Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Angie Drobnic Holan

15-million is okay guess, but not a fact

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up