Health Care Election News for the Week of February 8, 2008
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) on Sunday during an appearance on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" discussed her proposal to require all U.S. residents to obtain health insurance and "inched closer ... to explaining how she would enforce" the requirement but "declined to specify -- as she has throughout the campaign -- how she would penalize those who refuse," the New York Times reports. Asked whether she would garnish wages to enforce the mandate, Clinton said that "we will have an enforcement mechanism, whether it's that or it's some other mechanism through the tax system or automatic enrollments" (Sack, New York Times, 2/4).
She also said that the focus on an enforcement mechanism took attention from differences in her health care proposal and the plan announced by rival Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). His proposal would require health insurance only for children and would leave some residents without coverage, she said.
Bill Burton, a spokesperson for Obama, said that Clinton "again refused to directly answer the question" about the enforcement mechanism. He added, "America needs a leader they can trust, not someone who will avoid hard questions" (Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times, 2/3).
Video of Clinton's "This Week" appearance and expanded ABC News coverage are available online. A transcript of the complete interview also is available online.
During an event at California State University-Los Angeles on Saturday that targeted Hispanic voters, Clinton said, "My opponent will not commit to universal health care." She added, "I do not believe we should nominate any Democrat who will not proudly stand here today, tomorrow and the next day and say universal health care is the goal" (Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times, 2/3).
Later on Saturday at an event in Tucson, Ariz., Clinton said, "He doesn't have a universal health care plan, and I think as a Democrat, if we're going to run against the Republicans, let's run on our principles." She added, "Unless we get everybody covered with insurance, we'll never be able to improve health care, reduce costs. We'll never be able to rein in the insurance companies because they'll always be able to cherry-pick" healthy residents and reject those with pre-existing conditions (Scarpinato, Arizona Daily Star, 2/3).
Clinton on Tuesday won Democratic presidential primaries in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Obama won Democratic primaries and caucuses in Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, North Dakota and Utah, the Washington Post reports. The winner of the New Mexico primary remains undetermined (Balz/Kornblut, Washington Post, 2/6).
Among Republican candidates, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) won primaries in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Oklahoma. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won the primaries in Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the primaries and caucuses in Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Utah (Cooper, New York Times, 2/6).
According to exit polls, among three issues, 19% of Democratic voters cited health care as their most important concern in the election, compared with 48% who cited the economy and 29% who cited the war in Iraq. Clinton received support from more than half of Democratic voters who cited health care and the economy as their most important issues.
Among Republican voters, the polls found that, among four issues, 39% cited the economy as their most important concern in the election, compared with 23% who cited immigration, 19% who cited the war in Iraq and 15% who cited terrorism. McCain received support from 42% of Republican voters who cited the economy as their most important issue (AP/Miami Herald, 2/6).
The exit polls, conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, included interviews with voters in 431 precincts in 16 states, including 17,454 Democratic primary voters and 11,206 Republican primary voters. These polls had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus one percentage point for each party. Also included in the results were telephone interviews with 1,005 Democrats and 813 Republicans in Arizona, California and Tennessee to measure views of early and absentee voters (Fram, AP/Miami Herald, 2/6).
The Obama campaign last week distributed a mailer that said, "Hillary's health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it ... and you pay a penalty if you don't," the Times reports (New York Times, 2/4).
Neera Tanden, policy director for the Clinton campaign, said that the Clinton health care proposal includes subsidies to help residents cover the cost of health insurance, as well as provisions to reduce the cost of coverage. According to Tanden, Obama "betrays the cause of universal health care." She added, "For a potential Democratic nominee to be attacking universal health care is quite stunning" (Fouhy, Associated Press, 2/1).
The Clinton campaign also criticized the mailer for the use of images that resemble those used in the "Harry and Louise" television advertisements aired by American's Health Insurance Plans in the 1990s to help defeat her health care proposal. Len Nichols of the New America Foundation said, "I am personally outraged at the picture used in this mailing," which he called a "Harry and Louise evocation" (Smith, "Ben Smith" blog, The Politico, 2/1).
David Axelrod, chief strategist for the Obama campaign, defended the mailer. He added that the Clinton campaign has "spent a lot of money in this campaign to distort our health care plan" (Zeleny/Healy, New York Times, 2/2).