Candidates’ Health Care Plans: Take a Chill Pill

Henry J. Aaron
Henry J. Aaron The Bruce and Virginia MacLaury Chair, Senior Fellow Emeritus - Economic Studies

December 14, 2007

The first casualty of war, it is said, is truth. The first casualty of close political campaigns, it seems, is perspective. Case in point: The singularly unconstructive but increasingly intense exchange between the Clinton and Obama campaigns on health care reform, (with TV ads by Clinton in the works), which can best be summarized as dueling claims that “my plan is bigger than yours.”

The general issue is whose plan will leave fewer people uninsured. The particular issue is whether Hillary Clinton’s idea that a mandate requiring everyone to have insurance will boost insurance coverage more than would Barack Obama’s plan that mandates insurance for children only. Before you give what may seem like the obvious answer, recall that while Obama would enforce his mandate by requiring parents to show insurance coverage for their children when they enter school, Clinton has not explained how her general mandate would be enforced. Neither has explained in detail how much assistance will be given to make insurance affordable and therefore sustainable. And Obama acknowledges that he would be open to a broader coverage mandate if needed to achieve universality.

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