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Clinton, Obama battle it out over health care

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  • Clinton calls Obama's health care plan "confusing"
  • Obama says his would bring costs down more than his rivals' plans
  • Clinton supports a mandated plan; Obama does not
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PERRY, Iowa (CNN) -- Just a day after Sen. Barack Obama said his health care plan would keep costs down more than any of his rivals' plans, Sen. Hillary Clinton came back swinging, calling Obama's proposal "confusing."

Sen. Barack Obama says his health care plan would bring costs down more than any of his opponents' plans.

"There's a big difference between Sen. Obama and me on health care. I have a health care plan that covers every single American. He does not," Clinton told reporters Sunday.

Clinton criticized Obama's proposal, saying "it's been kind of confusing following his description of his own plan."

"If you go back and look, he said it was universal," Clinton said, "[then] he said it was sort of universal, [then] he said it wasn't universal, [then] he said it covered everybody, [then] he said it didn't cover 15 million. He [said he had] a mandate for kids, now he's against mandates."

Clinton, D-New York, and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards both support a mandated plan. Clinton's plan requires insurance companies to offer coverage to anyone who applies.

Obama, who does not support a mandated plan, says the reason people don't have health care is because it's too expensive, not because they don't want it.

"Sen. Clinton's idea is that we should force everyone to buy insurance," Obama said in a statement released to CNN on Sunday. "She's not being straight with the American people because she refuses to tell us how much she would fine people if they couldn't afford insurance."

The Illinois senator claims his health care plan would bring costs down more than any of his opponents' plans. His plan would create a national health insurance program for those who do not have employer-provided health care and who do not qualify for other existing federal programs. It does not mandate individual coverage for all Americans, but requires coverage for all children.

"Cost is the number one reason that 47 million Americans do not have health insurance," he said Saturday. "This is wrong, and it's why my plan does more to cut the cost of health care than any other proposal in this race."

Obama said it would save the "typical family" $2,500 a year in health care premiums.

The Clinton campaign was quick to fire back.

"[Senator Obama] wrote a plan that leaves 15 million Americans without coverage," said Clinton spokesman Phil Singer in a statement. "That is unacceptable and Senator Obama should explain why he chose to leave so many people uninsured. When it comes to cutting costs, Senator Clinton's plan is just as aggressive, if not more so. The real difference is that her plan covers every American."

The Clinton camp's jabs came just days after she saw a 23-point lead over Obama in September fall to 14 points in a new CNN/WMUR New Hampshire presidential primary poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire.

The CNN/WMUR poll came out a day after another poll in Iowa found Obama first in the state, although his lead was within the sampling error.

In Iowa, 30 percent of those questioned in the ABC/Washington Post poll supported Obama. Clinton was at 26 percent, Edwards at 22 percent and Richardson at 11 percent.

In the CNN poll of New Hampshire voters, 36 percent of likely Democratic primary voters backed Clinton, 22 percent supported Obama, 13 percent favored Edwards and 12 percent chose New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Clinton, however, appeared to have the upper hand in health care. More than half of those questioned in the CNN/WMUR poll said she would handle that issue best.

The Iowa caucuses, which will be held January 3, kick off the presidential primary season. New Hampshire will hold its primary on January 8. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Chris Welch contributed to this report.

All About Hillary ClintonBarack ObamaU.S. Presidential Election

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