Health care sparring continues

Hillary Clinton's campaign pointed to an interview Barack Obama gave this morning to revive a longstanding debate between the two over health care.

Obama has repeatedly referred to his plan as providing universal health care and on The Exchange repeated his goal of providing health care "for everyone." But the Clinton campaign says that because Obama's plan does not include a mandate, which Clinton's plan does, Obama would leave 15 million Americans uninsured.

"Any health care plan that leaves 15 million Americans uninsured cannot be considered universal. And that is a very big difference," said Clinton spokeswoman Kathleen Strand. "Senator Obama should be clear with the voters and admit that his plan will not cover millions of Americans."

In both the NHPR interview and a recent Democratic presidential debate, Obama did not challenge Clinton's figure of 15 million, which was cited by The New Republic this summer. Instead, Obama questioned her approach, pointing out that Clinton had no method for enforcing a mandate.

Instead of a mandate, Obama said, his emphasis is on making health care affordable. "If we make it affordable . . . the vast majority of people are going to then have health care coverage," he said. "Now, the argument they'll make is there's going to be maybe a handful of people who even if it's affordable still won't buy it. . . . I'm happy to consider a mandate once we get to affordability. If you have a mandate without affordability, people aren't going to buy it anyway. They don't get car insurance even though it's mandated because they can't afford it."

Obama's Fact Check website refers readers to a professor cited in the Washington Post who said that Clinton also would not provide universal coverage. "Any system that does not have a single payer will not have 100 percent coverage," said MIT professor Jonathan Gruber. He did not provide a figure for the number of those left uninsured under Clinton's plan.

The AP has more on Obama's interview here.

- Shira Schoenberg