Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is on the attack against her main rival, charging that Sen. Barack Obama's health plan would leave millions of Americans without medical protection while hers provides coverage to all.
The assertion, flatly rejected by the Obama campaign, rests on a pivotal difference between the two Democratic presidential candidates' health proposals. Clinton says she wants the government to require all citizens to buy insurance or face a penalty. Obama relies on a mandate for children only, and instead emphasizes ways to make coverage more affordable.
The details of a mandate are less critical than the change in thinking that such a requirement would instill, Blendon said.
"The most important thing you want to achieve is a cultural change which sort of accepts the responsibility that people have coverage," the Harvard professor said. The country must create an attitude where everyone is expected to have health insurance, he said, so "when you go into a doctor's office, they are horrified if you don't have coverage."