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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan November 26, 2007

No mandate makes universal claim tough

Barack Obama responded to an attack on his health care plan from Hillary Clinton by saying, "I do provide universal health care. The only difference between Senator Clinton's health care plan and mine is that she thinks the problem for people without health care is that nobody has mandated -- forced -- them to get health care."

The distinction between the two plan's is that Clinton's has a mandate requiring people to get health insurance; Obama's does not. Is it fair to say a plan is universal without a mandate?

There's little doubt that Obama's plan would significantly expand health care coverage. In its structure, it's not that different from Clinton's: Both leave in place employer-based private insurance; they increase access to Medicaid and SCHIP programsl they subsidize premiums for some employers; and they create pools for individuals to buy their own cheaper insurance.

But universal? Obama's plan "would get close to universal coverage," said Sara Collins, a health care expert with The Commonwealth Fund. "It's clear his goal is universal coverage," she said, noting that Obama's plan includes a mandate for children.

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"But I think to get all people covered, he would have to mandate that adults get it, too."

We think Obama is pushing the envelope calling a plan without a mandate "universal." For that reason, we rate his claim Barely True.

Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.

Our Sources

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

The 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 Sun (Massachusetts), "For some, health-insurance reform not so affordable," August 26, 2007.

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

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No mandate makes universal claim tough

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