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Sen. Clinton Discloses Plan for Health Care

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Sen. Clinton Discloses Plan for Health Care


Sen. Clinton Discloses Plan for Health Care

Sen. Clinton Discloses Plan for Health Care

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unveils the final piece of her health plan, which would guarantee insurance to all Americans. The New York senator has become a consensus builder, working with conservative Republicans like Newt Gingrich on computerized medical records.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unveiled the final piece of her health plan yesterday in Iowa. It's the portion, she says, would guarantee insurance to all Americans. Like former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, Clinton would require all Americans to have health insurance. And like Illinois Senator Barack Obama, Clinton would build on the existing health care system.

But as NPR's Julie Rovner reports, when it comes to health care, the stakes are higher for Clinton than for her rivals.

JULIE ROVNER: Speaking at a medical center in Des Moines, Clinton at first sounded like the first lady who unsuccessfully tried to push her husband's plan a decade and a half ago.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Nominee): We can talk all we want about freedom and opportunity, about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but what does all that mean to a mother or father who can't take a sick child to the doctor?

ROVNER: But she also talked about what she's learned in her seven years in the Senate, how to get along with those she might not agree with in order to get things done, even if they're relatively small steps like getting prescription drugs tested on children or getting better health insurance for members of the National Guard and Reserve.

Sen. CLINTON: I know that reforming health care takes a consensus for change. That's what I've been doing, building that consensus vote by vote, working to bring people together to get my colleagues from across the aisle to join our cause.

ROVNER: Those two different Clintons, one for whom compromise was anathema and the other for whom it's become a badge of honor, have created two very different views of the candidate among Democratic voters as well. That was evident Sunday night at Iowa Senator Tom Harkin's annual steak fry in Indianola. Take Carolyn Allen(ph, who's retired from the airline industry. When asked what she thought when she heard the words Hillary Clinton and health care, here's how she replied.

Ms. CAROLYN ALLEN (Resident, Iowa): I think if anybody gets it through, Hillary will get it through, because I think it's really important. She tried before and I think she'll keep working on it, I do, if there's any way possible.

ROVNER: But there were also people like retired nurse Collette Mahoney(ph).

Ms. COLETTE MAHONEY (Retired Nurse; Resident, Iowa): I'd say she's kind Of- if I'm correct, maybe she'll still go to the insurance companies and the drug companies. She wouldn't be my choice.

ROVNER: It's her long history with the issues, says Bob Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health, that makes health care so important for Hillary Clinton.

Dr. ROBERT BLENDON (Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis, Harvard School of Public Health): The other candidate just starting anew - saying, you know, I've come to this issue, I don't have a record but I can move ahead. She had a major failure and now has to argue that she's got the experience to bring the country together to make something happen.

ROVNER: But while Clinton is proud of her Senate record, working with conservative Republicans like Newt Gingrich on computerized medical records, for example, Blendon says that may not be so helpful with Democratic primary voters.

Dr. BLENDON: To many Democrats, she has become too pragmatic, too reaching out the interest groups, too concerted and cautious.

ROVNER: Then again, he says, she faces an even bigger peril if she wins the Democratic nomination.

Dr. BLENDON: For many independent voters that would be critical in the general election, they still remember the person who led this HillaryCare disaster even though probably most voters don't remember what the plan was, and that's going to be her problem with the new proposal.

ROVNER: And while it may look more moderate and more simple than the 1990s version he says...

Dr. BLENDON: For her opponents in the Republican Party, they're just going to call it HillaryCare and say it's the same thing as it was in 1992, and so she's got to convince voters she has a much more pragmatic, doable approach that could actually bring people together and solve this problem, and it's not just the replay of the old movie.

ROVNER: Republicans, however, are already buying the popcorn. Even before Clinton's speech, former Massachusetts Republican Governor Mitt Romney called it a, quote, "European-style socialized medicine plan." Ironic, given that what Clinton's plan is based on most is the one put in place in Massachusetts when Romney was governor.

Julie Rovner, NPR News.

INSKEEP: For more details of Hillary Clinton's health care proposal, go to

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Clinton Unveils New Health Care Plan

Clinton Unveils New Health Care Plan

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Highlights of Plan

The estimated $110 billion annual cost would be financed by a variety of mechanisms, including repealing some of President Bush's tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000. It would also be offset through savings from better management of chronic health conditions and streamlined administration of the health care system. The plan would:

  • Require all individuals to have coverage. Tax credits would be provided to ensure that no one pays more for insurance than a set percentage of their income.
  • Provide new choices of public and private health plans. The public plan will be similar to Medicare. Private plans would be similar to those offered to federal workers and members of Congress.
  • Require large employers to either cover their workers or else contribute to the costs of those coverage costs. Tax credits would be provided to encourage small businesses (those with fewer than 25 workers) to provide health insurance, but they would not be required to do so. Tax credits would also be provided to large employers with high retiree health care costs.

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton outlines her new health care plan in Des Moines, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall, AP hide caption

toggle caption
Charlie Neibergall, AP

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton outlines her new health care plan in Des Moines, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall, AP

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton released details of her new universal health care proposal on Monday, building on the existing employer-based system of coverage by offering health insurance tax credits for individuals and businesses.

The proposal would be major change from the current system. Like fellow Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, Sen. Clinton includes a so-called individual mandate — a requirement that everyone have health insurance.

Clinton, (D-NY), would make health care affordable by offering tax credits and requirements for employers to help pay for coverage. Clinton's other main Democratic rival, Illinois Sen. Barak Obama, would not mandate that people have insurance. Clinton says that means he can't say his plan will cover everyone.

"The only way to guarantee coverage for everyone is to cover everyone," Clinton told an audience in Des Moines, Iowa.

American Health Choices Plan

Before explaining what her new health plan would do, Clinton started by explaining what it wouldn't do.

"This is not government run," Clinton said. "There will be no new bureaucracy. You can keep the doctors you know and trust. You keep the insurance you have if you like it."

The overarching theme of what the Clinton campaign is calling the American Health Choices Plan is to let those who are satisfied with their current coverage keep it. That's a direct reaction to the implosion of the plan she helped push during her husband's administration in 1993 and 1994. Sen. Clinton says that's one of the important lessons she learned.

"The first rule of medicine is, 'do no harm.' And we will do no harm to the parts of our system that are working," Clinton said.

Proposal Draws Criticism

It didn't take long for her rivals to criticize Clinton's approach to health care. In a written statement, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) said that "the mismanagement of the effort in 1993 and 1994 has set back our ability to move toward universal health care immeasurably."

And former Massachusetts GOP Governor Mitt Romney headed to the microphones in New York early in the day to blast the Clinton plan even before it was officially announced.

"It's government insurance, not private insurance. It's European style socialized medicine," Romney said.

Such criticism from Republicans is predictable, said Robert Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health. But among Democrats, Clinton has so far managed to turn her failure during her husband's administration into something of a positive, he said.

"At the moment, based on the polls, I think she has the greatest confidence of people, principally because they do believe her argument that she had experience, she learned, and her experience with President Clinton taught her what it takes to really get major legislation through," Blendon said.

While "Hillary Clinton the senator" has proved much more of a compromiser on health care than "Hillary Clinton the first lady," her failures will be all too easy to resurrect should she win the Democratic nomination, Blendon said.

Meanwhile, Clinton still has to thread a delicate needle within the Democratic Party — between liberals who think she's gotten too close to special interests during her years in the Senate and more conservative voters who she will need later if she wants to win the presidency.