Hillary and health care

One of the things that really strikes me as a political observer is the way in which a genuine commitment to a universal national health care plan is standard and accepted among the 2008 Democratic candidates, yet just four years ago, most Democrats were still to afraid and timid to advocate for universal coverage.  Given how incredibly sensible national health care is, I think this is a great development.  The Democrats' fear, of course, stems from the Clinton's failed health care reform attempt in 1993.  While the Clinton plan was certainly a dramatic political failure, TNR's resident health policy expert, Jonathan Cohn, makes a compelling argument that the actual plan, “Hillarycare,” was quite sensible then and still serves as a good model for health care reform.  Some highlights:

But an equally important question,
certainly, is the one nobody is asking: Just how well would the Clinton
health care plan actually have worked? Would we have been better off
under Hillarycare? Here's one good hint: Twelve years later, we're back
talking about the very same problems, and even some of the very same
solutions, all over again…

from the standpoint of the average
American, the Clinton plan actually promised to work in a remarkably
straightforward way. Once a year, the government would present people
with a choice of private plans. All the plans would have generous
benefits, covering even services like mental health that private
coverage had traditionally given short shrift. The plans would vary in
cost, depending in part on the level of financial protection they
provided, with the government covering nearly the full price of the
cheapest plan and individuals chipping in extra for the pricier
alternatives. But all the plans would be affordable. The government
would prohibit the plans from discriminating against people based on
their medical condition: An insurer couldn't charge you higher
premiums, or reject you outright, just because you had, say, diabetes.
Most important, coverage would become a birthright. Everybody would get
insurance from day one. And it would never get taken away.

Presented this way, the plan was awfully appealing, as an early poll in the Los Angeles Times
showed: After listening to the president explain the plan in his
speech, Americans said they supported it by a two-to-one margin.

Of course, the plan would soon have its popular support completely undermined by a deceptive insurance industry campaign and the rest is history.  But Cohn argues quite persuasively that the fundamental aspects of the plan are well worth revisiting.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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