From NBC's Andrea Mitchell and Domenico Montanaro
Hillary Clinton is trying to turn up the heat on Barack Obama over health care. In a conference call with reporters today, her campaign manager demanded that Obama's campaign take down a TV ad running in New Hampshire that claims Obama's health care plan would cover "everyone."
"By choosing to forgo a mandate, it's not universal," said Neera Tanden, Clinton's policy director. "It will leave 15 million Americans uninsured. Even with a generous subsidy, millions of Americans will not get health insurance."
The campaign doesn't supply data to support the 15 million figure, but cites independent analysts, specifically studies published in the Inquiry Journal. One such study on mandates and health care from the journal was authored by Dr. Jeanne Lambrew, who told First Read in an e-mail that she is an informal adviser to Clinton. Lambrew, a public affairs professor at the University of Texas and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, also served as a health policy adviser in Bill Clinton's administration from 1997 to 2001. In a memo on health care costs, the Clinton campaign footnotes an article Lambrew co-authored with John Podesta, Bill Clinton's former chief of staff.
On the conference call, the campaign said Clinton's mandate would be "enforced through default enrollment." In other words, people "would be automatically enrolled, anyone who goes to the emergency room," for example. The campaign said it would try to work through employers as well.
"She has experience in this issue and knows how to work with congress to make it work," her staff said. The campaign did not say specifically what percentage of income individuals should expect to spend on health care, but added that Clinton is in favor of a cap on how high it can go.
When asked why she is now attacking Obama every day, rather than avoiding inter-party attacks as she previously promised, Campaign Communications Director Howard Wolfson said Obama and Edwards have been attacking Sen Clinton "on a daily basis." So, he said, it was "important for us to correct the record and make sure people knew the facts."
Obama's ad, though went up two months ago when asked why the campaign is now calling for it to come down, Wolfson said it was "seen yesterday in New Hampshire." When the ad first went up in late September, it began running in Iowa. After a week of debating health care, Wolfson said it was important to respond.
"He [Obama] chose to put up this ad I guess to make up for this weakness, and we want to make sure voters get the truth," Wolfson said. "We're not going to mislead voters for him saying that he covers everyone when he doesn't."
Campaign Manager Patti Solis Doyle even wrote a letter to Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe, asking the campaign to take the ad down, calling it "false" and "inaccurate."
The Obama campaign responds: "The Clinton campaign didn't say a word when this ad was released a month ago, and the only thing that's changed since then is the poll numbers. The truth is, Barack Obama would offer health coverage to every single American who can't afford it, and he'll do it by bringing Republicans and Democrats together like he's done before. Rather than spending their time attacking Barack Obama, the Clinton campaign should explain how exactly they plan to order every American to buy health insurance even if they can't afford it," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.