If there was one thing that bugs me about Barack Obama’s campaign, it’s his inability to go the rest of the distance on universal health care. Comments that were noted by Hillary’s quick response team today have me wondering whether he’s on board for health care reform at all.

ROBERTS: Senator, she suggests that you’re falling short here by mandating coverage for children but not mandating it for their parents. What do you say?

BHO: …[I] mean, if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating that everybody buy a house. the reason they don’t have a house is they don’t have the money.

Hillary’s camp notes that her universal health care proposal would include caps on out-of-pocket costs and assistance for those who need it. More importantly — by requiring those who don’t want health insurance to get health insurance, you’re forcing down the costs. Obama’s argument is that people who don’t have health insurance don’t have it because they can’t afford it. Not true, as any of his legion of twenty-something supporters will be happy to tell him.

In the last debate he said he supported keeping young people on their parents insurance through 25, but the core issue isn’t students, the problem is graduates who like seeing a little extra in their pay check and only go to the doctor once a year.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has more:

We already have programs that make health insurance free or very cheap to many low-income Americans, without requiring that they sign up. And many of those eligible fail, for whatever reason, to enroll.An Obama-type plan would also face the problem of healthy people who decide to take their chances or don’t sign up until they develop medical problems, thereby raising premiums for everyone else. Mr. Obama, contradicting his earlier assertions that affordability is the only bar to coverage, is now talking about penalizing those who delay signing up — but it’s not clear how this would work.

Krugman also questions Obama’s chances on health care:

But while it’s easy to see how the Clinton plan could end up being eviscerated, it’s hard to see how the hole in the Obama plan can be repaired. Why? Because Mr. Obama’s campaigning on the health care issue has sabotaged his own prospects.

You see, the Obama campaign has demonized the idea of mandates — most recently in a scare-tactics mailer sent to voters …

If Mr. Obama gets to the White House and tries to achieve universal coverage, he’ll find that it can’t be done without mandates — but if he tries to institute mandates, the enemies of reform will use his own words against him.

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