White House Evades Questions on Obama’s Past Support for Single-Payer Health Care

A White House spokesman declined Thursday to clearly answer questions from two reporters about President Barack Obama’s 2003 comment that he supported a single-payer health care system.

A video circulating on the Internet shows Obama giving a 2003 speech at an AFL-CIO event. In the speech, he says: “I happen to be a proponent of single-payer, universal health care plans.”

In 2007, U.S. senator and presidential candidate Obama said, “I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There’s going to be potentially some transition process. I can envision a decade out, or 15 years out, or 20 years out.”

The Democrats’ health care reform legislation, which Obama supports, does not establish a single-payer system, which would be an entirely government-run health care operation similar to what exists in Canada and Britain.

However, critics of the Obama plan think his “public option” would be the first step toward a single-payer system. The public option would be a government-run insurance plan set up to compete against private insurers.

As recently as June, Obama told the American Medical Association that a single-payer system has worked in other countries.

“I’ll be honest, there are countries where a single-payer system works pretty well,” said Obama.  “But I believe – and I’ve taken some flak from members of my own party for this belief – that it’s important for our efforts to build on our traditions here in the United States. So when you hear the naysayers claim that I’m trying to bring about government-run health care, know this: They’re not telling the truth.” (See earlier story)

After accusing opponents of spreading misinformation  White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked how showing the 2003 video constituted misinformation.

“Again, if you look at statements on Internet Web sites that splice a bunch of stuff together, I would have you look at the answers that state senator, U.S. Senator Barack Obama has given, we hope that people will have a full and accurate picture,” Gibbs said.

When CNSNews.com followed up with a question on whether Obama had changed his stated preference from a single-payer system, Gibbs did not give a yes or no answer.