Obama Defends Health Care Plan

From CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic:

KNOXVILLE, IOWA -- This morning during a live appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, moderator Tim Russert pressed Barack Obama on his no-mandate health care plan, which seemed to touch a nerve with Obama, who has been reacting today on the stump.

Russert told Obama that every analysis of the plan says that 15 million people would be left uncovered. He then read a scathing critique written by Ron Brownstein of the National Journal.

Brownstein wrote, "Obama faces his own contortions. He commendably calls for building a broad healthcare consensus that includes the insurance industry, but in the states, the individual mandate has been critical in persuading insurers to accept reform; including the requirement they no longer reject applicants with pre-existing health problems. If such requirement isn't tied to a mandate, insurers correctly note the uninsured can wait until they are sick to buy coverage, which would inflate costs for everyone else. By seeking guaranteed access without an individual mandate Obama is virtually ensuring war with the insurance companies he has pledged to engage."

Obama replied by saying that if health care was affordable, people would purchase it regardless of a mandate. He cited a Washington Post article to support his argument.

"The Washington Post itself said for the Clinton campaign to try to find an individual who wanted healthcare and could not get it under the Obama Administration would be very difficult because that person probably does not exist. If you want healthcare under my plan, you will be able to get it, it will be affordable and it will be of high quality," Obama said.

Obama's tussle with Russert quickly translated into his stump speech at a campaign stop in Knoxville. Although Obama often references health care in his closing argument stump, he put a much stronger emphasis on it and went as far as accusing Washington for generating criticisms of his plan.

"Millions of dollars of money of from undisclosed donors are coming in with independent expenditures and they're distorting my record and saying that I'm not going to provide health insurance to everyone despite the fact that I constantly say and this has been confirmed by every expert, that every single person who wants health insurance is going to be able to get health insurance."

Later, a voter asked Obama what personality traits will make him more likely to get along with Democrats and Republicans. The Senator briefly answered the question and segued into a description of his health care plan.

Obama also blamed the timing of the campaign season for the criticism. "You know what? We've seen this movie before. We've seen the script. This is what happens at the end of campaigns if Washington, if the status quo, is threatened," Obama said.