WASHINGTON---In 1994, then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s complicated plan to revamp how health care is delivered in the U.S.—disparaged with the Hillarycare label-- withered under attacks from the insurance industry aimed at worrying voters who had health insurance and were anxious about change. She was also blasted then for having a secretive process for crafting her legislation.
In 2007 universal health insurance is a top domestic priority among all the 2008 Democratic candidates.
Speaking in Chicago at a Laborer’s International Union of North America conference, former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) aiming at Clinton, said the consequence of Clinton’s failure as First Lady to get a universal coverage plan passed is that the ranks of the uninsured have swelled from 39.7 million in 1993 to 47 million today.
Edwards, declaring “I will not compromise” on Monday has been critical of Clinton for wanting to negotiate with the drug and insurance industry interests who buried her universal care legislation in 1994.
Said Edwards, “If you’re going to negotiate universal health care with the same powerful interests that killed it before, your proposal isn’t a plan, it’s a starting point. I’d like to know what a principled compromise looks like on universal health care. When you cut the deal on universal, who gets left out? And if you don’t compromise on the universal part, does that mean you compromise on the health care part? Lower quality? Higher costs? I don't believe in it.
“In the America I believe in, we don’t compromise our principles. I will not compromise on universal health care - not on coverage, not on quality, not on cost. I’ll fight for it with everything I’ve got.''
And Edwards promised to ask Congress--on the first day of his presidency--to end "health care coverage for the president, all members of Congress, and all senior political appointees in both branches of government on July 20th, 2009 - unless we have passed universal health care reform." That's a long shot bill.
In Washington, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) speaking before the Service Employees International Union implied Clinton could not get a universal health coverage bill passed and that he could. “The real key in passing universal health care is the ability to bring people together in a process that’s open and transparent that builds real consensus for change.”
For those not around back then...or needing a recap...here's a story I wrote that ran June 28, 1994 about the Clinton quest for universal health care.
Clintons Face Tough Political Battle in Congress
BYLINE: By Lynn Sweet
WASHINGTON--Since sending Congress a plan to overhaul the nation's health care delivery system last year, Bill and Hillary met another formidable couple interested in the same topic, Harry and Louise.
Harry and Louise are characters in the Health Insurance Association of America's ads designed to raise doubts about the Clinton administration's health insurance proposals.
After campaigning for the White House with a promise to have a health reform plan in the first 100 days, the Clintons finally unveiled their package in October, saw support for it erode in March polls and now are struggling with congressional committees.
The fictional Harry and Louise came to symbolize the opposition in the complex health care debate, although the ads have not swung public opinion against Clinton's health care reform plan as the White House had feared, said a study issued June 22 by the Times Mirror Center for The People & The Press and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Still, congressional work has been slow-going on the administration's original, minutely detailed 1,342-page bill, the centerpiece of the Clinton presidency.
Clinton, who promised to veto any bill reaching his desk that did not include affordable "universal" coverage for all Americans, now must grapple with a Congress less insistent on that point than the president.
The threshold question -- what constitutes "universal" coverage -- has yet to be answered.
The Clintons, who have been stepping up their meetings with members of Congress in recent days, must decide if they will accept legislation that phases in "universal" coverage over a period of years, giving market forces a crack at it before "triggering" federal mandates.
Under pressure of self-imposed deadlines, five House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over health issues are working on differing versions of national health legislation. Two of the committees, the Senate Labor and Human Resources panel and the House Education and Labor panel, have taken action.
While there are dozen bills put in the hopper dealing with health reform, everything has been or is being rewritten by the committees. The legislative process is still unfolding, and fulfilling a goal of sending members home for the July 4 recess with a consensus plan doesn't appear likely.
No matter what comes out of the various committees, the administration and Congress face a series of enormous hurdles in melding the different versions, a task left ultimately to House and Senate leadership.
Here's a committee status report:
House Ways and Means: With former Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) on the sidelines because of his 17-count indictment, the acting chairman, Sam M. Gibbons (D-Fla.), has put his mark down on a bill largely drafted by Rostenkowski. The bill is being loaded up with extra benefits (the latest is hearing aids for children) without earmarking revenue to pay for them.
Gibbons' aim is to complete work by the end of the month. Employers would have to pay 80 percent of employees' health insurance.
House Education and Labor: Voted to approve a bill June 23 that is close to the Clinton plan. Businesses would be required to cover 80 percent of workers' insurance costs and individuals would pay the rest, unless they qualify for low-income subsidies. Small, low-wage businesses would receive discounts and subsidies.
House Energy and Commerce: This panel is deadlocked over the main questions of employer mandates and price controls.
Senate Labor and Human Resources: This liberal panel's bill, approved June 9, is similiar to the Clinton plan. Includes funding for abortion services in a national health plan, a controversal and potentially politically explosive issue down the road.
Senate Finance: Led by Chairman Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), whose members in this crucial panel have been deadlocked over how to fund "universal" coverage. On June 22, a bi-partisan group of moderates on the committee said they had a compromise plan that would cover 95 percent of the population by 2002.
Moynihan said his committee would start public discussions on the legislation this week.