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When Sen. Tom Coburn said that under President Obama, "all the health care in this country is eventually going to be run by the government," it was like a golden oldie PolitiFact has heard many times before.
During the campaign, we heard the same tune from vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin , who said Obama was calling for a "government-run plan"; Mitt Romney , who said Obama "wants the government to take over health care"; and Rudy Giuliani , who called Hillary Clinton's similar plan "socialized medicine." (We rated their statements Barely True , Barely True and False .)
Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, made his remarks while criticizing Obama on a different matter. Obama is moving to rescind Bush administration rules that protected medical workers from performing procedures such as abortion that conflicted with their religious or moral beliefs.
Coburn, who is against abortion, said rescinding the order would be only a first step for the Obama administration.
"Remember, under the Obama plan . . . all the health care in this country is eventually going to be run by the government," Coburn said in an interview on Fox News on March 4, 2009.
"So it's part of an incremental creep towards eliminating any objection, both as us as taxpayers and then individual physicians in terms of not complying with a government-run bureaucracy," he added.
Coburn and Obama can fairly disagree about conscience protections for health care workers who oppose abortions. But he's wrong that Obama's plan offers government-run health care.
In fact, Obama's plan leaves in place the private health care system, but seeks to expand it to the uninsured. It increases eligibility for the poor and children to enroll in initiatives like Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and creates pools for individuals to buy their own cheaper insurance. It also outlines strategies to rein in costs for everyone, such as electronic medical records and preventive care.
"I think most of us would agree that if we want to cover all Americans, we can't make the mistake of trying to fix what isn't broken," Obama said at a health care conference he hosted on March 5. "So if somebody has insurance they like, they should be able to keep that insurance. If they have a doctor that they like, they should be able to keep their doctor. They should just pay less for the care that they receive."
Would Obama's plan result in closer regulation of the health care system? Very likely so. It includes provisions that require health insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions and disclose more information about how they treat patients. Obama's plan also calls for evidence-based health care standards, so that government can stop paying (through programs like Medicare) for treatments that don't get good results. But the plan is very different from some European-style health systems where the government owns health clinics and employs doctors.
We asked Coburn's office about his remarks. "What matters is not just President Obama’s intent, or what his plan states, but the likely effect and consequences of his plan," said spokesman John Hart. "Under Obama’s approach, the only plans left standing will be those controlled by the government."
That may be Sen. Coburn's opinion on what could happen, but it's definitely not part of Obama's plan. And Coburn was very specific in saying that "under the Obama plan, all the health care in this country is eventually going to be run by the government." That gives the incorrect impression that Obama is promoting a government-run health care system. He's not. We rate Coburn's statement False.
Fox News Channel, interview with Sen. Tom Coburn, transcript, March 4, 2009, accessed via Nexis
White House Web site, Health Care Plan
Barack Obama campaign, Health Care Plan
Associated Press, Obama Offers Universal Health Care Plan , by Mike Glover, May 29, 2007
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