As the Democratic nominating process extends into the spring the debate on health care policies has intensified. Health care was front and center at the Ohio and Texas debates thanks to Clinton’s persistence.  During these debates, and elsewhere on the campaign trail, both candidates have made claims and allegations against the others health care policy. Despite the media’s portrayal of the campaigns the debates have been relatively well- mannered and issue oriented.  I hope it remains that way.  However, each has made claims, and I hope to evaluate some of these claims as truths, stretched-truths, partial-truths, or complete falsehoods.

Clinton: Obama’s plan will leave 15 million people without health insurance.

That number comes from a MIT economics professor who stands by the fact that Obama’s plan will not cover everybody, but has distanced himself from the 15 million number – an educated guess.  The truth is neither of the plans provide enough detail to come up with concrete numbers. Clinton has taken a small step backward on this.  She now says things like, “15 million or so.”  The truth is that Obama’s plan is likely to cover less than Clinton’s, but using the 15 million stat is a bit of a stretch.

Stretched-truth, partial-truth

Obama: My plan will provide universal health care 

Clinton: My plan will provide universal health care

Not really.  Obama’s plan will leave people out.  So will Clinton’s.  Only a single payer system will truly include  every single American.  Clinton’s mandate will coerce more people to buy health care, but unless the penalty for not getting insurance is high some will choose to still not get insurance.

Stretched-truth (maybe a falsehood)

That leads to…

Obama: Clinton’s plan will force people to buy insurance that they cannot afford.

In a sense Obama is correct.  Clinton will create strong disincentives to not have health insurance.  Crazy double negative, but the most accurate phrasing.  We don’t know the extent of the disincentives, but they will be there. The question is what is affordable. Both Clinton and Obama will have tax credits based on income that should make insurance “affordable,” but Washington’s sense of affordable may be different than your sense of affordable.  What do people value?  Under Clinton’s plan the government will tell you how to value health insurance.  There are very good reasons for a mandate, but Obama is technically correct in his assertion. Her plan, unlike Obama’s, will force people to buy insurance who would not otherwise – good or bad. 


Obama: My plan will lower health care premiums more than any other candidates’ plans.

His re-insurance scheme should lower costs more than Clinton’s. Clinton will lower costs by getting more people (healthy people) into the insurance pools, but I think the Obama’s re-insurance scheme will be more effective in lowering costs. Both plans lack the details to be sure of this claim, but all in all, I think Obama is correct on this count.


I invite you to throw out other claims made by our candidates with or without an analysis of the truth behind these claims.  We can discuss how true the candidates are being as they discuss U.S health care.


4 responses to “Allegations

  1. what is the working definition of “affordable”? has anyone been specific or even ballparked a figure?

  2. Because there is no possible concrete benchmark for the term “affordable” the debate around a healthcare mandate gets muddled. “Affordable” is too entwined with the word “value.” What you value is different from what I value. One person might value health care; another might value an ipod. To the first person health insurance may seem affordable, to the second it may not. So when insurance is mandated that second person is going to scream, “unfair.”

    A second consideration is this: neither candidate has enough detail in their plans to guess at affordability. What do we need to know? We need to know how big the tax credits are going to be to ensue affordability. And while were at it Clinton needs to tell us what the consequences for ignoring the mandate would be. Those details would bring us closer to determining affordability, but ultimaely affordability is not something that we will all agree upon

    And to ensure that I’m not giving the wrong impression here, there are very good reasons for a mandate. It is probably neceassary. But when Obama says that people will be forced to buy insuance that they cannot afford, he is technically correct.

  3. As a student I find myself already in the position of being forced to buy insurance I can’t afford…just got a nice note from the bursar’s office asking when we’re going to pay my overdue bill. I’d rather buy groceries, so for now it’s staying overdue. Till I borrow more $$ from the gov’t in order to pay for insurance I can’t afford mandated by law that I get because I’m a student…

    So–I guess my follow up question is, what’s your feeling about this? Would a mandate be more likely to create situations like the one I’m now in or more likely to put health insurance within reach for people who currently can’t pay for it (and without the option of student loan to cover the gap)? I realize there’s a severe lack of info, but I trust your educated guess better than my uneducated one.

  4. JTB,

    A mandate will make more situations like yours as every student will be forced to buy insurance. However, the premiums you pay, at least in theory, would be lower making it all that much more affordable (plus, you would probably qualify for a tax credit). But let me point out something. You are choosing to buy insurance right now. Since you have made that choice (I think it is a wise one) the mandate will help you by lowering costs. It is the person who now chooses not to have insurance that is forced to buy insurance under a mandate who (at least from their perspective) might be hurt. All in all you will benefit, but there will be some who will feal that it is unfair.

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