Obama in 2003: ‘I Happen to be a Proponent of a Single-Payer Universal Health Care Plan;' Obama in 2009: ‘I Have Not Said That I Was a Single-Payer Supporter’

August 12, 2009 - 5:48 PM
In 2003, Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama said he was a supporter of a single-payer health care system. This week, he said he has not said he was a supporter of a single-payer health care system.

President Obama jogs up the steps to speak at town hall meeting about health care, Aug. 11, 2009, at Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(CNSNews.com) - In 2003, Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama received a big round of applause for telling a gathering of the AFL-CIO, “I happen to be a proponent of single-payer, universal health care plan.”

This week, speaking at a town hall gathering in Portsmouth, N.H., President Obama said, “I have not said that I was a single-payer supporter because, frankly, we historically have had a employer-based system in this country with private insurers, and for us to transition to a system like that I believe would be too disruptive.

“So what would end up happening would be, a lot of people who currently have employer-based health care would suddenly find themselves dropped, and they would have to go into an entirely new system that had not been fully set up yet and I would be concerned about the potential destructiveness of that kind of transition,” the president continued at the New Hampshire event. “All right? So I'm not promoting a single-payer plan."

The current proposals in Congress that Obama backs do not establish a single-payer system but does establish a government-run option to compete with private insurers.

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.”

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 previous story.)

Obama acknowledged the concerns that private companies could not compete with a government-run option with unlimited government resources.

“If you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It's the Post Office that's always having problems,” Obama said.