Is Obama Committed To Universal Health Care?
Paul Krugman flags Barack Obama today for his health care proposal not being as bold as those of Edwards and Clinton in avoiding an individual mandate. Krugman also notes that in defending his reasons for not having the guts to do what Edwards and Clinton have done with the individual mandates in their plans, Obama is now using right wing attack lines against fellow Democrats.
What seems to have happened is that Mr. Obama’s caution, his reluctance to stake out a clearly partisan position, led him to propose a relatively weak, incomplete health care plan. Although he declared, in his speech announcing the plan, that “my plan begins by covering every American,” it didn’t — and he shied away from doing what was necessary to make his claim true.
Now, in the effort to defend his plan’s weakness, he’s attacking his Democratic opponents from the right — and in so doing giving aid and comfort to the enemies of reform.
In fact, Obama's campaign has been running misleading ads on his plan for over a month, and admits it. Now that the Clinton campaign has called him on it, they resort to GOP rhetoric demanding to know how Clinton will "order" Americans to have health insurance that they can't pay for, while ignoring the measures in both Edwards' and Clinton's plan that provide such help.
So how does Obama defend his lack of an individual mandate? He says it is unenforceable, and would get uninsured adults to participate through voluntary means, and deflects Hillary’s challenge by demanding to know how she would enforce it. What Obama misses is that it isn’t universal health care unless everyone participates, sick and well, to spread the risk and costs and thereby lowering costs for everyone. Without mandated coverage, you cannot tackle the problem of unfunded care that is driving up the costs for those of us who do buy coverage, and therefore efforts to make insurance more affordable are doomed.
Those who are opposed to an individual mandate do so because:
1) They oppose universal health care itself ("I've got mine-screw you" conservatives), or
2) They are politically timid, but talk a good game (Obama.)
Edwards has already said how he would enforce an individual mandate, and Hillary can also lay out some ideas whereby individuals are automatically enrolled in health care at the time they obtain any government service or benefit, as a condition of receiving that service or benefit.