By MATTHEW HOLT
In July 2005 George W Bush had relatively recently won a Presidential election in which the Republican won the popular vote (something that will likely never happen again) & the Republicans controlled all three branches of Government. Those of us liberals at the bottom of a dark trench were wondering if and how we’d get to health reform. So in another reprint to celebrate THCB’s 15th birthday, here was my then take on what went wrong in 1994 and what would happen next–Matthew Holt
There are lots of versions about what killed the 1993-4 health care reform effort. Hillary Clinton has now decided that the problem was the lack of incrementalism in her plan. Last week the New York Times said that since becoming a Senator:
“She has deliberately avoided the major mistake she made as first lady, namely trying to sell an ambitious plan to a public with no appetite for radical change. <SNIP>. She summed up her approach in the first floor speech she delivered in the Senate about four years ago, when she unveiled a series of relatively modest health care initiatives. “I learned some valuable lessons about the legislative process, the importance of bipartisan cooperation and the wisdom of taking small steps to get a big job done,” she said, referring to the 1994 defeat of her health care plan.”
On the other hand, some people are still claiming victory for the plan’s defeat even if they were at most modest bit players. Here’s what one fawning bio says about former New York Lt Governor Betsy McCaughey
“A 35-year-old senior fellow named Elizabeth McCaughey…wrote an article for The New Republic on what she discovered in a close reading of the 1,431-page document containing the Clinton Health Care Plan: Namely, that it would put every citizen in a single government-operated HMO. That one article shot down the entire blimp, and Betsy McCaughey became a 35-year-old Cinderella. One of the richest men in America chose her as his wife, and George Pataki made her lieutenant governor of New York.”
Ignoring the fact that McCaughey spent her time thereafter putting poor New Yorkers into those HMOs she so despised, and then went off the deep end en route to divorce from Pataki, the rich guy, and reality (not necessarily in that order), it’s not really true that one article in The New Republic can be quite that influential. (Sorry Jon!). Even if the overly geeky Clintonistas in the White House did feel that they had to come out with a point by point rebuttal. And anyway, the article only came out in January 1994 by which time the die was more or less cast the other way. Again we have to look elsewhere for the explanation.
If you want to go back and spend a few minutes wallowing in the era of trial balloons and secret task forces, there’s a very interesting time line of the whole process on the NPR website, as well as a briefer information over at the Clinton Health Plan Wikipedia site.Continue reading…
Hillary Clinton is now the presumptive Democratic nominee and the odds-on favorite to be our next president.
For healthcare, that could be a very good thing, not just compared to a Trump (or Cruz) presidency but for the following reasons:
(1) Hillary knows and cares deeply about healthcare.
Even if you don’t support or like her, she’s been a tireless advocate for reform and coverage expansion for decades. She worked, for example, in the 1980s with the Children’s Defense Fund and other groups to enhance coverage for children.
As first lady, of course, Bill put her in charge, in 1991, of developing a health reform plan. Though the process had its flaws, she was steeped in the subject for over a year and learned it inside and out.
Famously, the legislation failed in 1993-94 due to staunch Republican opposition (and, yes, a bungled legislative strategy by the White House). A widespread impression still exists that Hillary slunk back from the issue after the Clinton reform failed. Not true. Continue reading…
It was 1993, nearly a generation ago. President Bill Clinton had delegated massively to the First Lady the task of putting meat on the bones of his ambitious healthcare announcement. Ms. Clinton, in turn, undertook the task of drafting and then selling to Congress what was titled the “Health Security Act of 1993,” but what is remembered as “Hillarycare.”
No one doubts Ms. Clinton’s intelligence and determination. That she was so completely derailed and the way it happened is nothing short of remarkable. In many ways, we were then so ready for reform. Many things were aligned, including a newly robust economy that lasted for over 7 years.
There are many reasons why Hillarycare failed back then, not the least of which were the AHIP sponsored television ads, Harry and Louise, who became famous for their very effective skewering of what was loosely represented to be the effects of the Act. The entire debacle became a cautionary tale about how healthcare IS different and is extremely resistant to change.
A seasoned colleague recently told me that some PowerPoint presentations have no power and make no point.
But sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Or maybe — in the case of any meaningful discussion of health reform, thanks to its density and complexity — it might be worth 10,000 words. Hence our handy little exhibit.
This picture captures the 10,000 words it would require to explain with technical precision where President Obama’s Affordable Care Act fits relative to all health reform plans. It places “ObamaCare” along an ideologically scaled continuum of all serious reform options developed, debated and discarded or ignored since the 1980s.
They are all here: from the single-payer, centrally controlled models popular with those who detest corporations and the influence of money in medicine — two actual, not imagined “government takeovers of health care” — to two free market, laissez-faire models favored by those who detest regulation and the heavy hand of government in medicine.
You know we have entered the silly season when a major national debate gets underway over whether people should be given something for free that they could easily pay for out-of-pocket. Take the decision of the Obama administration to force Catholic universities, hospitals and charities to provide health insurance that includes free contraceptives. The reaction was poignant and hyperbolic, but (what can I say?) completely deserved:
What makes this so amazing is that it is déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra might say. Do you remember the death knell for HillaryCare? I bet you can’t.
Mammograms and Pap smears. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
[Yes, I know. There were many things that helped derail HillaryCare. The biggest mistake was the White House’s failure to throw everything aside and endorse the Senate Republican health plan, which was about as close to HillaryCare as RomneyCare is to ObamaCare. Hillary would have ended up with about 90% of everything she wanted. More about that, perhaps, in a future Alert.]