Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is suggesting the health care reform plan rival Barack Obama has proposed is “betraying the Democratic Party’s principles.” Clinton made an appearance in Ankeny on Tuesday afternoon, mentioning Obama by name in her critique.
“You need to have the willingness to stand up to the insurance companies and the drug companies and demand universal coverage,” Clinton said. “And that’s why I don’t understand why we have this difference on the Democratic side because if anything Democrats should stand for universal health care. That distinguishes us from the Republicans. The Republicans don’t believe in it. Democrats do and we should fight for it.”
Clinton charged that Obama’s plan would leave 15 million Americans uninsured, including 100,000 Iowans. “I think it’s important that we understand the differences among us who have plans,” Clinton said. “You know, among the Democrats, all of us except Senator Obama have universal health care that have put forward a plan. Senator Richardson, Senator Edwards, Senator Dodd — we’ve put forward universal health care plans because we know if we don’t cover everybody, we’re going to leave millions and millions of people out. It’s a substantive and important difference.”
During a telephone conference call with reporters, Obama defended his plan. “Here are the facts: we have a lot of similarities between our plans,” Obama said. “The main difference that she’s focusing on right now is that I believe that the reason people do not have health care is because they can’t afford it, not because they don’t want it and that’s why my plan focuses, more than any other plan, on making health care affordable. By doing so, I will cover every American.”
Clinton disputes that. Clinton claimed she and competitors John Edwards, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich have all laid out health care reform plans which would provide “universal” coverage. “If we don’t have universal health care then we will be betraying the Democratic Party’s principles and it’s important that those who will caucus on January 3rd understand this difference. Senator Obama’s plan does not and cannot cover all Americans,” Clinton said. “He’s called his plan universal, then he called it virtually universal but it is not either and when it comes to truth in labeling, it simply flunks the test.”
Obama shot back, accusing Clinton of trying to impose a mandate that Americans get health care coverage, without spelling out how she’d reach that goal. “Until she clarifies what exactly she intends to do to enforce this mandate — Is she going to fine people? Is she going to take other steps to order to enforce it? — this is, you know, more of a political point that she’s trying to make than a real point,” Obama said.
Obama suggested he’s the candidate who could build a consensus and get the health care system overhauled. “I believe that I’m in the best position to be able to bring people together; to get Democrats, Republicans and Independence to work together; to overcome the resistance of drug companies and insurance companies and HMOs, those who are profiting from the status quo; and actually deliver relief to American families,” Obama said. “That’s what they want. They don’t want the political point-scoring that, you know, we’ve been hearing from Senator Clinton over the last several weeks.”
Clinton ridiculed the idea Obama was best able to get health care reform through congress. “I have been fighting the Republicans and the special interests for 15 years. I have to admit I get somewhat amused when any of my opponents try to claim they have fought more fights than I have fought,” Clinton said. A few in the crowd laughed. “Well, I don’t remember them being with me in 1993 and 1994 to tell you the truth.”
Clinton was over two hours late for her appearance in Ankeny due to airplane problems. Her campaign bought lunch for the crowd that had assembled in a gymnasium at Des Moines Area Community College.