From the Fact Check Desk: President Obama Says “I Didn’t Campaign on the Public Option”

Dec 23, 2009 10:32am

"I didn't campaign on the public option," President Obama told the Washington Post yesterday.

Is that true?

It depends on what the meaning of "campaign" is.

Was it a major emphasis of his campaign? Not after he won the Democratic presidential nomination.

But did he mention it? Was it part of his "campaign"? Yes.

He told Planned Parenthood activists in 2007 that he wanted to set up "a public plan that all persons and all women can access if they don't have health insurance.  It will be a plan that will provide all essential services, including reproductive services."

The Obama for America campaign website says the "Obama plan" for health care  "will: (1) establish a new public insurance program available to Americans who neither qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP nor have access to insurance through their employers, as well as to small businesses that want to offer insurance to their employees."

His campaign literature said "Obama will make available a new national health plan that will allow individuals without access to affordable insurance coverage, including the self-employed and small businesses, to buy affordable health coverage that is similar to the plan available to members of Congress."

In a 2008 Washington Post questionnaire then-Sen. Obama said that "For those without health insurance I will establish a new public insurance program, and provide subsides to afford care for those who need them."

When Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., last month told Politico  that "if you look at the campaign last year, presidential, you can't find a mention of public option," the liberal group Media Matters accused him of lying  and provided myriad examples of the public option being discussed on the campaign trail.

This included an article in the New Republic from Jonathan Cohn which noted that Obama "included an optional public plan in his eventual blueprint for universal coverage."

Other bloggers at Firedoglake, Salon.com, the Huffington Post and the Washington Monthly have also explored this claim.

- jpt

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