No policy proposal more sharply divided Barack Obama from Hillary Clinton than the former first lady's plan requiring adults to purchase health insurance.
But as the one-time rivals head to Unity, N.H., on Friday, a health adviser to the presumptive Democratic nominee is signaling that Obama's plan could eventually go in Clinton's direction.
"Senator Obama is willing to consider any sort of proposal that would bring together, not just the insurance industry but . . . the consumers themselves," said Obama adviser Dr. Kavita Patel.
Obama's surrogate made her comments Wednesday while representing him at a National Journal health-policy forum moderated by Ron Brownstein, the political director of Atlantic Media.
Patel's individual mandate remarks were made in response to an insurance industry leader suggesting at the same forum that insurers will oppose Obama's plan as currently structured. Insurers are worried that the Illinois Democrat has not tied an individual mandate to "guaranteed issue," the industry's term for requiring patients to be covered without regard to pre-existing conditions.
"We've had the conversation about . . . guaranteed issue," said Karen Ignagni, the president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans. "But we are prepared to have that conversation in the insurance industry if the politicians are ready to stand up and say we are going to get everyone in."
Ignagni's words are watched closely because the organization she heads emerged from the Health Insurance Association of America, sponsors of the "Harry and Louise" ads which played a critical role in killing Clinton's effort to reform health-care in the 1990s
Asked if Obama would be seen as reversing himself if he were to endorse an individual mandate after clashing with Clinton on the issue, Patel dismissed the concern.
"He has not said he is opposed to it," Patel told ABC News. "He has voiced his disagreement with having that be a part of his health-care plan last year. But he is not opposed to the idea itself." Patel added that the Obama campaign is in touch with former Clinton health-care advisers.
Although Ignagni praised Patel as being "very thoughtful" in her openness to an individual mandate, a compromise between Obama and the insurance industry may still prove elusive.
Richard Kirsch, the head of "Health Care for America Now," told ABC News in a separate interview that the liberal coalition he leads will be hard pressed to go along with an individual mandate unless the insurance industry accepts guaranteed issue and no variations in premiums on the basis of age, gender, or pre-existing conditions.
"We're not going to get the kind of change we need by playing footsie with the industry," said Kirsch. If they are going to change their tune, great. But I think they are only going to change their tune if they are forced to do it."
"Looks to me that the D.C. handgun ban overshot the runway."
--Barack Obama to Bloomberg TV following Thursday's Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller
On the campaign front. . .
-- 12:00 pm ET: Attends rally with Sen. Hillary Clinton, Unity, NH.
As for the Republicans. . .
-- 10:30 am ET: Tours the General Motors assembly plant, Warren, OH.
-- 10:45 am ET: Attends town hall meeting, Warren, OH.