October 16th, 2008
05:57 PM ET
14 years ago

Fact Check: Would Obama force kids into state-run health care?

The Statement

In remarks for a campaign event at Downington, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 16, Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain said, "If I'm elected President, I won't fine ... families with children, as Senator Obama proposes, to force them into a new huge government-run health care program, while I keep the cost of the fine a secret until I hit you with it."

Get the facts!

The Facts

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama's health care plan, as outlined on his campaign Web site, says an Obama administration "will require that all children have health care coverage." The site refers to coverage for children as a "mandate." The plan says parents will be assisted in signing up their children for coverage either through private insurers, government programs such as Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) or unspecified "options established by the Obama plan."

Beyond raising the possibility that parents may have to prove health care coverage before children can be enrolled in daycare or school, the Web site does not address fines or any other penalties for parents who do not obtain health care coverage for their children.

Obama was quoted last year during the Democratic primary campaign as saying he would fine parents if they did not enroll their children.

According to the Des Moines (Iowa) Register, Obama told reporters in November 2007: "If they don't have health care, we will work with the parents to make sure that it's provided, and it would be mandatory. Parents will not have an option. And I would fine parents if for some reason they refused." He did not specify the amount of any fine.

Neera Tanden, Obama's director of domestic policy, told CNN on Oct. 16 that the campaign had no plans to levy fines against parents if they refuse to enroll their children. "This will be automatic enrollment - any child that comes to school or enters the health care system for any reason will automatically be enrolled," she said. Asked specifically about fining parents who refuse to enroll their children, Tanden repeated that there was no plan for a fine because the campaign believes with automatic enrollment no fines would be necessary.

The Verdict:

Misleading. Obama's health care plan leaves open the option of private insurance, and, while it mandates coverage for children, it does not "force them into a new huge government-run health care program" as McCain stated. However, Obama was quoted last year as saying he would fine parents if they refused to enroll their children. A campaign spokeswoman said there are currently no plans for such fines.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check • John McCain
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