Obama's Health-Care Efforts
In the Illinois Statehouse (2004)
As an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama made an issue of health care, pushing for greater coverage of the state's children and uninsured. With one bill, Obama began by calling for a government-run, single-payer system but eventually gave in to opposition and turned it into a bill that did little more than create a task force to study ways to improve health care. The proposal still came under attack as too costly and akin to Hillary Rodham Clinton's 1992 health-care reform proposals, prompting an impassioned speech by Obama to rebut the critics. The legislation passed by a 31 to 26 vote.
On the Campaign Trail (2007-2008)
Under pressure to match his Democratic rivals in releasing a plan for overhauling the nation's health-care system, Obama unveiled on May 29, 2007, a plan that offered few new ideas. It would extend coverage to all Americans but would not mandate such coverage, and it would offer subsidies to make health care more affordable. The plan would be funded by increasing taxes on the rich and repealing President George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy.
In January 2008, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) gave Obama his much-coveted endorsement after extracting from his Senate colleague a promise that he would push, as president, for universal health care.
In the White House (2009)
In his first address to Congress, on Feb. 24, Obama did not specifically call for universal health coverage but told lawmakers, "We must have quality, affordable health care for every American." He told lawmakers in June that he wanted a bill through the House and the Senate before the August recess so he could sign it in October. But that timeline fell apart as members from both parties became concerned about the costs of an overhaul and the role the government should play in managing health care.