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Sen. Hillary Clinton made a strong new charge against Sen. Barack Obama on Feb. 28, 2008, suggesting that he doesn't care about the health needs of adults.
"I want ... each and every member of the family to have health insurance," she said at a campaign event in Hanging Rock, Ohio. "My opponent only wants your children to have health insurance. I don't think that's smart."
There's been lots of discussion about the differences in the candidates' health plans, and there are uncertainties about cost estimates and whether the plans could achieve universal coverage. (We have explored the health plans in detail in this article and in previous Truth-O-Meter items on Obama's claim that Clinton would force people to buy insurance even if they can't afford it and on Clinton's claim that Obama's plan would leave out 15-million people).
But with her new claim, Sen. Clinton makes her strongest attack yet, suggesting that Obama is ignoring the needs of everyone except children.
We find that is not an accurate description of Obama's plan.
When PolitiFact asked the Clinton campaign about her comment, spokesman Mo Elleithee said Clinton was referring to the major difference between their plans: She would require everyone to purchase insurance (a mandate that has been likened to state requirements that drivers buy car insurance), while Obama only requires parents buy insurance for their children.
Clinton says the mandate is the best way to achieve universal coverage. But Obama says it could penalize people with modest incomes. If premiums don't drop enough after all his reforms are implemented, people would still be unable to afford insurance. If a law mandates they buy it anyway, they probably won't, he contends.
We won't go into all the details of Obama's plan, but it includes several elements that apply to adults:
• It would expand Medicaid, the federal program that provides health coverage for the poor.
• It would provide income-related subsidies to help people who don't qualify for Medicaid but still need financial help to buy coverage.
• It would require employers to provide health insurance for their workers, or contribute to the cost of the insurance.
If Clinton had said that Obama's plan "does not mandate insurance for adults," she would have been on solid ground. But she didn't and, given that Obama's plan has elements to expand coverage for adults, it is simply wrong to say he " only wants your children to have health insurance." We find her statement to be False.
New York Times, Summary of Obama health plan
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
Factcheck.org, Clinton vs. Obama, Nov. 16, 2007
New Hampshire Public Radio, Interview with Barack Obama, Nov. 21 2007
Lowell (Mass.) 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
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