The Corner

Obama and Single Payer in Illinois

This revealing video shows Obama in 2007 acknowledging a long-term strategy to undermine employer-based private medical insurance coverage, and in 2003 affirming his support for a “single-payer” government-run health-care system.

Obama’s support for a single-payer system may run deeper than we realize. In his regular “Springfield Report” column in the October 2, 2002 issue of the Hyde Park Herald, Obama wrote:

I have been one of the leaders in the General Assembly on universal health care as the chief State Senate sponsor of the Cardinal Bernardin Amendment, which would change Illinois to a single-payer system where everyone received health benefits.

There is something odd about this statement. While the Bernardin Amendment, by creating a constitutional right to health care, would indeed have mandated universal coverage, the amendment itself didn’t dictate how universal coverage was to be achieved. So why did Obama claim that the Bernardin Amendment would “change Illinois to a single-payer system?”

Obama may have been exaggerating, bragging to his left-leaning Hyde Park constituents about a single-payer stance that he knew the Bernardin Amendment wouldn’t actually mandate. But maybe something else is going on. Obama is quoted in a November 5, 1998 Chicago Tribune article about the Bernardin Amendment (“Care Amendment Has Way To Go”) speaking of a detailed legislative plan that would parallel and specify the Bernardin Amendment’s broad universal health-care mandate:

State Senator Barack Obama (D-Chicago) added that efforts would begin immediately to develop a specific program for universal health care to accompany the broadly worded amendment.

Put that 1998 statement together with Obama’s 2002 Hyde Park Herald column and the implication is that Obama had already drafted (and introduced?) single-payer enacting legislation for the much more amorphous Bernardin Amendment. Who knows, someone might even dig up those plans. Or maybe some reporter might want to ask the president about any legislative plans designed to accompany the Bernardin Amendment, and his role in drafting them. In any case, during his time in the Illinois legislature, Obama clearly supported a single-payer system. So that powerful video montage is right on target.


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