Mr. Gruber, who played a key role in the formation of the ground-breaking plan in Massachusetts to provide universal coverage, said that he convinced then-Governor Mitt Romney to move to a mandate system in part by showing him that it would be the only way ultimately to insure a significant chunk of the uninsured population.
“The only benefit is the freedom of individual choice,” he said of Mr. Obama’s plan.
The Obama campaign disputes that characterization and argues that its plan is more realistic about taking steps that will eventually get to universal coverage, such as cutting the high costs that they say could make Mr. Edwards’ insistence on an insurance mandate untenable.
“The Obama health-care plan is a plan that brings down costs for all Americans and makes sure that every American gets health-care coverage,” said Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama campaign. “It won’t happen overnight; no plan says that it will happen overnight. But it will happen in due course through this plan.”
In response to Mr. Burton’s comments, Mr. Wolfson directed The Observer to a statement by the campaign’s policy director, Neera Tanden, that was released following Mr. Obama’s speech. The statement read, in part: “Senator Clinton believes that in addition to making healthcare more accessible, we have to achieve true universal healthcare so that every American has health care coverage.”
Dr. Redlener said he was taken aback by “how kind of meek Obama’s plan was. In 1995, this would have been brazen; in 2007, it’s kind of ho-hum. And where is the rest of it?”
Of course, Mrs. Clinton’s still-unannounced plan has yet to undergo that same level of scrutiny from health-care experts, who will compare it not only to those of her rivals in the Democratic primary, but to her own previous effort to reform health care as First Lady—the collapse of which nearly derailed her husband’s first administration.
“[Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama] have forced her to come out with a plan,” said Mr. Blendon. “And a plan for her is riskier than for the other candidates.”