I get so angry when I read about the Clinton campaign's dishonest approach to the issue of universal health care. Her campaign recently sent out a mailer with a photo of several desperate-looking people with the caption "Barack Obama, which of these people don't deserve health care?" The allegation of the mailer is that Obama would not cover everyone with his health care plan and is therefore not universal.
Does the Clinton campaign really think that the American people are this stupid? Until recently, when has anyone ever argued that universal health care must include mandatory individual coverage? It's infuriating that Clinton is resorting to demagoguery on this issue and alleging (erroneously) that only her plan is truly universal.
"Sen. Clinton's idea is that we should force everyone to buy insurance," Obama has noted, "She's not being straight with the American people because she refuses to tell us how much she would fine people if they couldn't afford insurance."
Sen. Ted Kennedy recently responded to Clinton's charges, noting, "They both effectively have universal health care programs. The point of this ad is to undermine people's belief that Barack Obama is committed to universal health care, and that is simply a distortion, a misrepresentation… that is the kind of distortion that we had back in 1994."
Notably, Obama's plan likely would actually cover more people than Hillary's and would not include any unworkable government enforcement mechanisms in the process. As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has argued:
"She says his would insure fewer people than hers. I've compared the two plans in detail. Both of them are big advances over what we have now. But in my view Obama's would insure more people, not fewer, than Hillary Clinton's. That's because Obama's puts more money up front and contains sufficient subsidies to insure everyone who's likely to need help – including all children and young adults up to 25 years old. Hers requires that everyone insure themselves. Yet we know from experience with mandated auto insurance – and we're learning from what's happening in Massachusetts where health insurance is now being mandated – that mandates still leave out a lot of people at the lower end who can't afford to insure themselves even when they're required to do so. Clinton doesn't indicate how she'd enforce her mandate, and I can't find enough money in Clinton's plan to help all those who won't be able to afford to buy it. I'm also impressed by the up-front investments in information technology in Obama's plan, and the reinsurance mechanism for coping with the costs of catastrophic illness. Clinton is far less specific on both counts. In short: They're both advances, but Obama's is the better of the two. Clinton has no grounds for alleging that Obama's would leave out 15 million people."
It is certainly ironic that Hillary has stolen the idea of mandatory coverage from a conservative Republican, Mitt Romney, who as governor instituted such a plan in Massachusetts. As Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor who was an adviser to Romney on the state's health care reform law, has noted, "Hillary's plan is just like the Massachusetts plan. There's not a whole lot of difference."
Moreover, there have been many problems enforcing such a government mandate in Massachusetts, with all kinds of unanticipated consequences in health care costs and fines on individual households. Hillary's plan is based on the flawed Romney Mandate Model and should be anathema to Democrats for that reason alone.