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Sweet column: Clinton, Obama showdown over health insurance.

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Health care is the top domestic issue for Democrats running for the White House and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton unleashed Wednesday another, stronger, round of criticism aimed at Sen. Barack Obama over whether a law is needed to require people to buy health insurance.

Speaking in Iowa with the state’s crucial Jan. 3 caucus looming, Clinton continued to focus on her difference with Obama over a health insurance purchase requirement — also called a mandate — a distinction her campaign believes reveals a major Obama weakness.

“Sen. Obama’s plan does not, and cannot, cover all Americans. He called his plan universal, then he called it ‘virtually universal,’ but it is not either. When it comes to truth in labeling, it simply flunks the test,” Clinton said.

Clinton has been stepping up her criticism of Obama over their differences on mandates and her campaign shows every sign of keeping the pressure on.

Clinton offered interviews with the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune, generating stories about her criticism of Obama in the Wednesday papers, previewing many of the points she underscored in her Wednesday speech, including that a state of Illinois health care task force Obama helped fund when he was a state senator recommended mandates.

The report was issued last January and Gov. Blagojevich did not embrace mandates in a state plan now stalled in the Illinois General Assembly.

“It is impossible to get universal health care if you don’t have a mandate. That is a key difference between my plan and Senator Obama’s plan,” Clinton said.

The Obama campaign vigorously rebutted, preparing now to make an issue over Clinton’s failure, while first lady, to convince Congress to pass health-care reform.

“Another day, another desperate attack. Demonizing anyone who doesn't share her exact plans on health care is exactly why Hillary Clinton flunked the opportunity she had to pass universal health care in 1993. The truth is, Barack Obama's universal health care plan makes coverage affordable for every single American, he just doesn’t agree with Hillary’s plan to start by forcing everyone to buy insurance they can’t afford,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.

All the Democrats back universal coverage. Clinton, former Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Chris Dodd and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson call for mandates in their health plan. Rep. Dennis Kucinich supports a Medicare-style plan providing health insurance for everyone. Medicare provides health insurance for the nation's seniors and some people with specific disabilities.

Obama gauges people will buy health insurance if the federal government helps keep down the price.

All the Democrats call for insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on November 28, 2007 7:37 PM.

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