Hillary trots out socialized medicine

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton called for universal health care on Monday, plunging back into the bruising political battle she famously waged and lost as first lady on an issue that looms large in the 2008 presidential race.

“This is not government-run,” the party’s front-runner said of her plan to extend coverage to an estimated 47 million Americans who now go without.

Her declaration was a clear message to Republicans, the insurance industry, businesses and millions of voters who nervously recall what sank her effort at health care reform 13 years ago in her husband’s first term — fear of a big-government takeover.

In unveiling her plan, she called for a requirement for businesses to obtain insurance for employees, and said the wealthy should pay higher taxes to help defray the cost for those less able to pay for it. She put the government’s cost at $110 billion a year.

Mindful of the lessons of her failed attempt, Clinton said that under her new plan anyone who is content with their health coverage can keep what they have. She insisted no new government bureaucracy would be created even as it seeks to cover tens of millions uninsured.

“I know my Republican opponents will try to equate health care for all Americans with government-run health care,” Clinton said. “Don’t let them fool us again. This is not government-run.”

The New York senator said her plan would require every American to purchase insurance, either through their jobs or through a program modeled on Medicare or the federal employee health plan. Businesses would be required to offer insurance or contribute to a pool that would expand coverage. Individuals and small businesses would be offered tax credits to make insurance more affordable.

“I believe everyone — every man, woman and child — should have quality, affordable health care in America,” Clinton told an audience at a medical center in Iowa, the early voting state that launches the nomination process.

As the front-runner, Clinton drew swift criticism from Democratic and Republican rivals, including party foes Bill Richardson and John Edwards who argued she was merely following their lead in offering a similar plan.

Clinton framed her quest as a moral imperative in which individuals, businesses, the insurance industry and the federal government each had a role to play. She said her plan would be bipartisan and would only be successful through negotiation — a sharp departure from her earlier effort.

Then, the Clinton health care task force met in secret and tried to drive legislation through Congress. Now, Clinton, a senator for seven years, spoke of compromise although she vowed to accomplish her goal in her first term if elected.

“She’s running against essentially not just the other candidates but her own plan. She’s trying to convince you that this is a new Clinton plan,” said Robert Blendon, a professor of public health at Harvard Medical School.

To pay for her plan, Clinton said the tax cuts for Americans making $250,000 or more that were enacted under President Bush would be allowed to expire. She also projected she would identify $56 billion in savings through computerized record keeping, reducing the price of prescription drugs and cutting Medicare overpayments to hospitals and HMOs.

Despite the focus on letting people who are happy with their insurance keep what they have, her plan would raise taxes on some coverage for the wealthy.

The current exclusion from taxes of employer-provided health premiums would be limited for those who make more than $250,000 and have “very generous” plans. For such people, a portion of the premiums paid by the employer could become taxable income for the employee.

Joking that her proposals “won’t make me the insurance industry’s woman of the year,” Clinton said companies would no longer be able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions or genetic predisposition to certain illnesses.

The centerpiece of Clinton’s latest effort is the so-called “individual mandate,” requiring everyone to have health insurance just as most states require drivers to purchase auto insurance. Such a mandate has detractors at both ends of the political spectrum, and questions abound over how it would be enforced.

“Perhaps more than anybody else I know just how hard this fight will be,” said the New York senator.

Clinton adviser Laurie Rubiner said the mandate could be enforced in a number of ways, such as denying certain tax deduction to those who refused to buy insurance. But she stressed that a specific mechanism would be worked out once the plan was passed.

Rival John Edwards has also offered a plan that includes an individual mandate, while the proposal outlined by Barack Obama does not. Obama has insisted individuals can’t be forced to buy insurance until its costs are substantially reduced.

Obama released a statement Monday saying Clinton’s plan is similar to one he proposed in the spring. He took a swipe at the Clinton administration’s closed-door sessions on health care in the 1990s, saying “the real key to passing any health care reform is the ability to bring people together in an open, transparent process that builds a broad consensus for change.”

For his part, Edwards said that on his first day in office he will submit legislation that would pull health insurance for the president, members of Congress and all political appointees unless they pass universal health care within six months.

Republican Mitt Romney, in New York City for a fundraising stop, criticized Clinton’s proposal, saying, “‘Hillary care’ continues to be bad medicine … in her plan, we have Washington-managed health care. Fundamentally, she takes her inspiration from European bureaucracies.”

The plan that Romney helped institute while governor of Massachusetts requires the same individual insurance mandate as Clinton’s and uses state subsidies to help reduce the cost of private coverage. Since then, Romney has said he would leave it up to the states to decide whether they supported such a mandate.

Campaigning in Florida, Republican Rudy Giuliani said Clinton’s plans was a “pretty clear march to socialized medicine.”

“Government command and control only increases costs and decreases quality,” the former New York mayor said. “My approach is to encourage people to buy their own health insurance … give people incentives to buy health insurance, not demand that they do it.”


Associated Press writers Ashley M. Heher in Chicago, Curt Anderson in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Nedra Pickler in Washington contributed to this report.


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  1. nuQler Ostrich

    One name is obviously missing from this article.

    It mentions Hillary, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Robert Blendon, Laurie Rubiner, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, but somehow fails to talk about the candidate who touted “Universal Healthcare” when he ran in 2004 and not a single other candidate dared even use the phrase.

    He’s been talking about Universal Health Care for years, and ever since he ran for President in 2004, he’s not stopped.

    Today, all the candidates are talking about some form of “Universal Health Care.” But none of them are doing anything but selling insurance.

    I have to wonder which corporate Insurance Lobbyist wrote Hillary’s “plan.”

    There’s only one candidate who is offering a real “Universal Healthcare” plan that does not support the corporate profiteering Insurance companies, but truly offers Care over Insurance.

    The insurance companies’ biggest job is to deny care to save pennies and drive up profits for multimillion dollar salaries and compensation packages for executives.

    Dennis Kucinich’s plan does away with the corporate profiteering machine and goes straight to the heart of health care, and that is HEALTH CARE, not Health Insurance.

    Why do I need a Middlle-Man between me and my doctor? So that the CEO can have a Four Hundred Fifteen Million Dollar compensation package while he raises my premiums to almost $600 a month and my deductibles to $2,000? BTW I am single male 52 yo. non-smoker. When they raised my rates last time, they shoved me into the group of 47 million.

    To leave Dennis Kucinich’s name out of this article seems like a very loud silence.

    I’m voting for Dennis Kucinich. He’s no insurance salesman.

  2. nuQler Ostrich

    OH. On the subject of SOCIALIZED MEDICINE,

    In case you haven’t noticed, WE ALREADY HAVE SOCIALIZED MEDICINE!

    Just go to any city hospital Emergency Room and you will see plenty of people waiting for their free socialized medicine. Many of them here illegally.

    And instead of getting care for their cuts and bruises, or their throat infections, at a clinic or doctors office somewhere for a cost of $100 or less, they will run up a bill in the ER of tens of thousands of dollars for the same malady.

    And guess who has to pay for these grossly inflated costs? Well, if you can’t guess, just look on your homeowner’s property tax bill for the “hospital district taxing authority assessment.” and you will find out. Mine was $1,300 last year, and I can’t afford corporate profiteering health insurance for myself, but I am forced to pay for the free socialized medicine for these other folks.

    So don’t talk to me about SOCIALIZED MEDICINE. OK?

  3. nuQler Ostrich

    One other thing.

    I remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth from “conservatives” when Blue-Cross-Blue-Shield came out.

    “That’s socialism,” they cried.

    Well, if you read the Declaration of Independence, and the Preamble to the Constitution you will see a country founded on socialist principles.

    We the People – proletariat
    domestic tranquility
    more perfect UNION
    COMMON defense
    General WELFARE
    freedom to assemble
    equal protection

    The corporate moneyed interests have always fought against anything that gives the people any power over their own lives that they can not control.

    And this debate over UNIVERSAL Health CARE is no different.

  4. nuQler Ostrich

    Michael McCallister [Humana CEO] doesn’t want us to hear about Dennis Kucinich. Beth Fouhy has done her job well.

    No matter.

    I’m voting for Dennis Kucinich. He’s no insurance salesman.

  5. SEAL

    For those who don’t know:

    The overhead to operate medicare is 4%. The overhead to operate private insurace corporations is 35%.

    You can select any physician you want under medicare. You must choose from the list provided by private insurance corporations.

    There are fewer exclusions under medicare than under the average private insurance corp.

    Pre-existing is not excluded by medicare.

    The co-pay is less under medicare than under most chosen private insurance plans.

    Medicare pays for everyone’s prescriptions with a small co-pay of 2-3 dollars in most cases. Prescription coverage is an extra cost option under private plans.

    Universal Medicare would greatly reduce the premiums of auto, home owner, business, and other liability insurances by eliminating the medical cost liability presently included in them.

    Every doctor and hospital accepts Medicare.

    If the government would auto-deduct the fee from everyones paycheck on a straight percentage basis, all americans could have identical medicare health insurance, it would pay for itself (with no profit, of course) and the average person now paying for private HMOs, etc. would find themselves paying less for superior health care.

    Ask anyone who is on medicare and 90% of them will tell you it is OK to great. There are always some who will bitch no matter what. But medicare is hassle free, simple, and cheap. Under the present system, the retiree’s premium is far, far less than what private corps would charge for the same coverage. In fact, all those presently on medicare, except for the very wealthy, could not afford private insurance – the same reason why we have 47 million with no health insurance.

    There is no reason why the government could not compute a rate scale based upon percentage of income that would provide medicare for every american.

    Yes, those 10-30 million dollar a year executives would pay an enormous amount and the poor would be getting a hell of a deal, but it would work and that is what matters.

    Yes, it would put some insurance companies out of business and would negatively impact all of them. Many insurance industry jobs would be lost, but many other types of jobs would be created due to a healthy work force. But does anyone care if the insurance companies suffer?

    It doesn’t take a genuis to figure this out but you will never hear any politition suggest it. Notice that every plan offerred still has the insurance industry as the insurer with the premiums being paid to them. All the plans offerred are only a method of extending what presently exists to those who do not have it and would only make the insurance industry wealthier. Mandatory health insurance gives them 47 million new premium payers.

    The insurance and pharma industry will pay any amount to any necessary number of legislators to prevent medicare across the board. That means every member of congress is on the take from the insurance and pharma industry who would, also, suffer greatly due to medicare. As the only insurer, medicare would be able to virtually dictate the price of drugs. Now, you know why we have no health care system in america.

  6. Pablo

    Well Said!

    Kucinich, unlike Hillary, is not a representative of corporations (nor a warmonger). Like ‘nuQler Ostrich’ said, what Kucinich wants is health care, not insurance to enrich CEOs. We could save billions by leaving the insurance leeches out of the picture, that way they could go get real, respectable jobs like the rest of us. This is something that something Hillary either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want.Screw the corporate press’s candidate of choice! Wake up folks; Kucinich is our hope!

  7. zerealbigboss

    Have a look how it is done in Europe (the old EU, that is): everyone has medical service, paid for by a special tax fund. And there it functions, contrary to the private ideas in the US. The same goes for pensions. The US has to learn a lot more than its citizens would like to admit.

  8. SEAL

    I failed to mention that medicare has one major flaw. Dental is not covered. Why, I have no idea. Good teeth are essential to good health. I assume it is because of the expense due to the fact that by the time they reach 65 almost every person needs at least partial dentures, I have a full upper and partial lower and I was amazed at the price I would have had to pay for them if not for my coverage. Over $4000.00. The partial was more than twice what the full was.

    Any universal health care program must include dental. Very few people can afford dentures. It would be much cheaper to prevent the need for them with decent dental care during the persons life. The reality is that people avoid going to the dentist because of the expense. The Swedes have beautiful teeth due to their free care.