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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan October 2, 2008

Obama's plan does not call for government-run health care

At the vice presidential debate in St. Louis, Sarah Palin defended John McCain's health care plan and criticized Barack Obama's.

Obama has a plan "to mandate health care coverage and have a universal government-run program," Palin said. "And unless you're pleased with the way the federal government has been running anything lately, I don't think that it's going to be real pleasing for Americans to consider health care being taken over by the feds."

Problem is, Obama's plan keeps the free-market health care system intact, particularly employer-based insurance. It is not a goverment-run program and is very different from the health care systems run by the government in some European countries.

Obama's plan essentially takes the health care system as it is today and seeks to expand it to the uninsured. The plan increases eligibility for the poor and children to enroll in initiatives like Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. It also creates pools for individuals to buy their own cheaper insurance. And it outlines several strategies aimed at reining in costs for everyone, such as streamlining medical record-keeping and emphasizing preventive care.

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Obama's plan does not mandate coverage, except for children. Obama said often during the Democratic primary campaign that he did not include a mandate for adults so as not to penalize people with modest incomes.

His reasoning for not including a mandate for adults was this: If premiums don’t drop enough after his reforms are implemented, people will still be unable to afford insurance. If a law mandates they buy it anyway, they probably won’t. Obama’s argument is that if you then fine them, you’re essentially punishing the poor — and they will still be uninsured. Obama said he hopes his plan will lower costs enough that many of the estimated 47-million uninsured will sign up without a mandate, and a mandate will come later.

Obama has said he would like it to be universal, in that everyone has health care coverage.

So Palin is mostly wrong about Obama's plan having a mandate; it only has one for children. He would like it to be universal at some point. She also emphasized that Obama proposes government-run health care, a statement that is completely inaccurate. Taking all that together, we rate her statement 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, He says universal, but it's no guarantee , Nov. 15, 2007

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

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

Barack Obama campaign, Health Care Plan

Interview with Sara Collins, assistant vice president of the Commonwealth Fund

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 Blendon, professor of health policy and politics at Harvard School of Public Health

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Obama's plan does not call for government-run health care

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