Obamacare: It Could Be Worse

Hillarycare was tossed onto the ash heap of history—but it still had profound consequences.

Hillary Clinton in 1997White House/Wikimedia CommonsBarack Obama was still a freshman in the Illinois state Senate in 1998, an era when the technologically advanced were dialing up the World Wide Web over 56k modems and Netscape Navigator. So you can understand why Democratic partisans have gotten a little shirty over the recent unearthing of notes by Diana Blair, a personal friend of Hillary Clinton, about Monica Lewinsky, and by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s recent efforts to re-litigate the Lewinsky scandal. It is, after all, pretty old news.

Then again, it’s no older than Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital—a subject that absolutely fascinated Democratic partisans not so long ago. It's certainly fresher news than Richard Nixon—yet when tapes released in 2010 revealed Nixon spouting nonsense about Jews, blacks, Italians, and others back in the 1970s, it was Big News. And Nixon wasn’t even running for public office any longer in 2010 (I checked!).

This doesn’t mean Paul ought to drag Bill Clinton’s indiscretions back into public light. For one thing, Clinton isn’t running for anything, either. For another—and Republicans probably have repressed their memories of this—Gallup reports that “as the Lewinsky situation unfolded, Clinton’s job approval went up, not down, and his ratings remained high for the duration of the impeachment proceedings.” These days the former president is such a beloved figure that bad-mouthing him for anything is like cussing out the Dalai Lama for not wearing a tux to a black-tie dinner: Even if you’re technically right, you still lose.

Besides, Republicans are supposed to care about individual responsibility, and it’s hard to see how Hillary was individually responsible for her husband acting like a hound dog. If Republicans want to rake her over some old coals, they have much better material to use: Hillarycare.

The ink was still drying on Bill Clinton’s White House stationery in January 1993 when he created a special health care task force and put his wife in charge of it. The task force was supposed to do nothing less than transform the entire American health care system with a plan to guarantee universal coverage for all. And it was supposed to lower medical spending because, as Hillary Clinton put it a few months later, “too many people have made too much money” providing health care in the U.S.

Much about the task force was secret. It met in secret; its membership was secret; its deliberations were secret. And while it did meet with various health care stakeholders, the meetings were described by the chairman of Physicians for a National Health Program as “a magnificent exercise in pseudo-openness.”

The task force was also gargantuan. As The New York Times reported, “with more than 500 people, the staff was bigger than 99 percent of all businesses in the United States.”

That huge staff produced a huge bill: A 1,342-page proposal “of sweeping scope and complexity,” as one academic journal later put it, that would have corralled all Americans into regional health cooperatives. The cooperatives were to negotiate with insurers, set standards for insurance coverage, collect premiums, negotiate with doctors and hospitals, regulate prices, and cap health care spending.

The plan would also have required every employer to provide health insurance for all employees; required every citizen to have insurance; and done it all through a health maintenance organization (HMO) model. Everything would be supervised by a seven-member National Health Board.

Reviews were less than glowing. “Under these plans, people are driven like cattle from doctor to doctor,” said a Richmond-area doctor, who described the proposal as a “huge, megalithic" system. “Not since Franklin Roosevelt’s War Production Board,” said The Economist, “has it been suggested that so large a part of the American economy should suddenly be brought under government control.”

Even some of those on the task force thought it was excessive. “I can think of parallels in wartime,” read one internal memo released years later, “but I have trouble coming up with a precedent in our peacetime history for such broad and centralized control over a sector of the economy.”

A huge public relations battle between supporters and opponents ensued. It ended in a rout. Hillarycare was tossed onto the ash heap of history—but it still had profound consequences. The next year, Republicans won control of both the House and Senate for the first time in four decades, in no small part on the strength of public reaction to Hillarycare. 

When she ran for president against Obama a decade and a half later, Hillary rolled out a slightly more modest health care plan. This time she pitched it, very carefully, as the “American Health Choices Plan”—despite the fact that it reduced choices by mandating coverage, forbidding insurers to deny coverage, and imposing price controls. Yet as The Washington Post reported at the time, Clinton “emphasized that if people … currently like their health care plan, her proposal does not require them to change it.” Sound familiar? 

More Americans disapprove of Obamacare than approve of it. This has been the consistent finding since the law first took effect. It is not soothing to realize that, if Hillary Clinton had gotten her way, America now would be saddled with something even worse.

This column first appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, another reason Clinton is a nonsensical candidate for the Democrats--her healthcare proposal would have been worse, and we can easily extrapolate from that what her "fix" will be for Obamacare. No, thanks.

  • JW||

    This time, you'll like it, if you know what's good for you.

  • anon||

    “but I have trouble coming up with a precedent in our peacetime history for such broad and centralized control over a sector of the economy.”

    But there's CONSENSUS!!!!111one

    See how it's the same tactic no matter what they're trying to do?

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    This is not the sort of bright side I'd rather be looking on.

  • anon||

    Yeah, it really doesn't matter how much you polish that turd; you're still eating shit.

  • John||

    Besides, Republicans are supposed to care about individual responsibility, and it’s hard to see how Hillary was individually responsible for her husband acting like a hound dog.

    But she sure as hell is responsible for lying and slandering various women she knew to be telling the truth to cover that fact up. Clinton made her entire political career taking the fall for and covering up for her philandering and misogynistic husband. I think that is a pretty fair point for Republicans to point out, especially since Hillary's only justification for being President is she was married to Bill and she is a woman.

    Not pointing out Hillary's appalling behavior during her husband's political career would be like if the Democrats had had evidence that John McCain was actually a turncoat during his time as a POW and choosing not to bring the topic up because it was just too long ago. I swear sometimes people on the Right don't want to win elections.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    I swear sometimes people on the Right don't want to win elections.

    Why bother, nothing really changes when they do, even the blame.

  • John||

    Then be up front and admit that. But even if you don't want to win, telling the truth is never a bad thing. Not going after Hillary on this will allow her to lie. The Republicans have a duty to remind the voters of the truth.

  • Tony||

    John usually I charge for this much honesty, but if you think relitigating Lewinskygate is a winning issue for Republicans you are a dumbass of the highest order.

  • John||

    Yes Tony, you are a gay man who hates women. I am sure you think it is great that Bill groped and harassed those women.

    And even if you didn't, you being a fascist willing to excuse anything would prevent you from worrying about it.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Those two chicks standing behind Hillary look really stoned.

  • PapayaSF||

    They made the mistake of looking directly at her.

  • DenverJay||

    Yeah, I keep second guessing my memory, thinking, "Naw, she wasn't always as ugly as a zit on a baboon's ass", and then I see one of these old pics, and find that my memory is good, after all. And, of course, women's looks are NOT like a fine wine...

  • DenverJay||

    "womens'"

  • ||

    You had it right the first time. Possessive, not plural.

  • DenverJay||

    yeah, the quotes make it hard to see, but my correction actually was to " womens' "

  • Tim||

    Hillary. It's her turn!

  • John||

    It should never be forgotten that had Hillary had her way, it would have been a federal crime to pay for your own doctor. If we had anything but a state run media, she would be getting hammered with that fact every day.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    She can take care of hammering herself.

  • John||

    Isn't that Huma Abedin's job?

  • gimmeasammich||

    Between the thought of this and SF's Warren/Hitlery story I think I'll need a thorough brain washing whiskey session soon.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    These days the former president is such a beloved figure

    Compared to the path of senseless destruction carved by the two useless morons who succeeded him, he's like Isaac Newton. Or Wayne, anyway.

  • John||

    No he is not. He just had the 1994 elections to save his dumb ass from himself. Had he had the Pelosi Reid Congress in 1993, we would have had Hillary care and things would be even worse than Obamacare. Had the 1994 elections not gone so badly, none of the things that got the government out of the way of the tech boom would have happened.

    Clinton is just as big of a leftist piece of shit as Obama. He just lived in times where he could do less damage and is a bit smarter, at least in a feral sense, than the Kenyan Village Idiot.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    Beyond being a progressive, Clinton was an executive and a survivor. He's a terrible man and would've been a terrible president had the Contract with America not snipped him after two disastrous years, but after that his stalemate with Congress prevented him from screwing us while the economy grew.

    Obama--who never ran so much as a fruit stand before becoming the most powerful executive in the world--understands nothing about how executives operate, which is why his administration is constantly being slapped down by federal courts. His leadership method alternates between bullying and pouting, and it's unimaginable that he could sign something like NAFTA had he been president 20 years ago. He's an unbelievably incompetent executive in the lineage of Kennedy, another rookie with a pretty face who didn't know anything about running anything.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yeah, I mentioned on a previous thread that whatever many flaws Gingrich had, he was at least obviously in opposition.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    My libertarian vision for the next generation or two consists of preventing Democrats and "compassionate conservatives" from destroying the economy by keeping them in balance with Republicans who want to go to war with every non-NWS nation.

    Problem is that each party keeps taking the executive & a majority in Congress two out of every eight years. The Tea Party at least gives a little bit of hope.

  • PapayaSF||

    Republicans who want to go to war with every non-NWS nation.

    There are entire countries that are Not Work Safe?

  • DenverJay||

    MAybe he is using it to mean "Niggas With Swag"

  • Drake||

    Clinton was a pure weather-vane politician. Obama actually believes his own bullshit.

  • RishJoMo||

    Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with the punches thats all man.

    www.Anon-VPN.com

  • OldMexican||

    Obamacare: It Could Be Worse


    Leia: "Could've been worse!"

    Growl!

    Han: "It's worse!"

  • OldMexican||

    The cooperatives were to negotiate with insurers, set standards for insurance coverage, collect premiums, negotiate with doctors and hospitals, regulate prices, and cap health care spending.


    Did it mention anything about gathering kulaks counterrevolutionaries traitors convenient scapegoats once the cooperatives failed to achieve the stated goals and collect the required premiums?

  • Wandering Texan||

    If the First Lady's gaff is any indicator, all "young invincibles" are the likely scapegoats.

  • Sevo||

    "Did it mention anything about gathering kulaks counterrevolutionaries traitors convenient scapegoats once the cooperatives failed to achieve the stated goals and collect the required premiums?"

    Rethugs. Or Joooze. One or the other.

  • Vincent Milburn||

    "If Hillary Clinton had gotten her way, America now would be saddled with something even worse."

    So Obamacare is a compromise? Why won't the obstructionist teathuglicans support compromise?

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    We learned the progressive version of compromise during the latest gun control fiasco last year.

    "Give me your wallet!"
    "No."
    "Then compromise and give me what's in your wallet."

  • Fluffy||

    Besides, Republicans are supposed to care about individual responsibility, and it’s hard to see how Hillary was individually responsible for her husband acting like a hound dog.

    If Rand Paul had an aide, prominent supporter, or major fundraiser who had settled one sexual harassment case, had admitted to an affair with a college-age intern who worked for him, and had in another case been accused of rape, not one of the maggots in the press would either call it old news or claim that it wasn't fair to drag Paul into the story.

    Not one.

    Bill is all of those things to Hillary at the same time.

  • John||

    Exactly. I don't know why Reason feels the need to clutch their pearls over this. And the funny thing is, if the hypothetical you give about Paul were true, Reason would be killing him over it just like they killed his dad over the newsletters. But they go to bat to protect Hillary, someone who represents everything they are supposed to hate.

    Talk about beltway Stockholm Syndrome.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    And it was supposed to lower medical spending because, as Hillary Clinton put it a few months later, “too many people have made too much money” providing health care in the U.S.

    So we'll cut the number of people providing healthcare by imposing wage controls on physicians while demand goes through the roof for "free" healthcare. You'd be more likely to get a World Series ticket at face value than to get a hip-replacement surgery as a 75-year-old. Hello offshore medical clinics.

    I'm still optimistic that, if the United States can hold off the disaster of nationalized healthcare or a total implosion of Medicare for another generation, technology and AI development can give us inexpensive and market-universal healthcare. It's going to be a rough wait between now and then, as every Democratic president seems to spend his first two years devising a way to destroy medicine in America.

  • DenverJay||

    Not sure if AI is the tech I see fixing healthcare... my bet would be nano-tech, although one might argue that AI would be needed, or at least greatly facilitate, nano-tech.
    I foresee a day when we will all have a resident supply of self-replicating cellular sized machines zipping around our bodies and fixing things. Of course, our bodies contain several different kinds of cells that do that already, and these cells have their own self repair mechanisms as well. But, as old age and disease show, these natural machines are far from perfect. I anticipate nano-medicine within a decade or two; with perhaps a little longer needed for machines small enough to slip through the blood-brain barrier to repair problems in the brain.

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    This is too easy that no way the Repubs do it in 2016:

    Campaign Commercial:

    "It's 3 AM....blah blah blah."

    Hillary lookalike answers phone, and dubbed in are her own words: "WHAT DIFFERENCE AT THIS POINT DOES IT MAKE?!"

    She hangs up and goes back to sleep.

  • John||

    I have to give credit there. That is brilliant. Of course the stupid party would never have the balls to run it. But they should.

  • sasob||

    Damned right they should!

  • DenverJay||

    Yup, that is pure gold. But remember, we are talking about the party that decided it would be a great idea to nominate Romney, thus taking Obamacare out of the equation, even though polls showed a majority of Americans did not like Obamacare; and even though resistance to Obamacare was the reason the Republicans won a Senate seat in MA for the first time since 1972! Brilliant! Pure Machiavellian Genius!

  • sasob||

    Hillary Clinton is a phony baloney, ball-busting control freak with anger management issues. It would be nice if she could be "tossed onto the ash heap of history" along with both Hillarycare and Obamacare.

  • PapayaSF||

    I am surprised that so many people think she's the inevitable nominee and next President. She's got tons of baggage, she's old, unpleasant, has few accomplishments, and is widely disliked.

  • Alien Invader||

    This is the US in the 21st century. Look at what's gotten elected so far.

    In what way is this woman un-viable?

  • Tony||

    Her favorability has rarely dropped below 60 since 2008. She crushes every conceivable Republican opponent. She may be all of the other things, but widely disliked she is not.

    But I'm sure bringing up the Lewinsky saga will just tank her numbers.

  • DenverJay||

    No, Tony is right here. It doesn't matter that she has done horrible things to other women in order to protect her husband's (and by extension, her own) political career. What matters is the way that the media will spin it. And we all know what that spin would look like.

  • PapayaSF||

    The spin will look just like Tony.

  • DenverJay||

    true, and I thought about saying that in my comment, but thought it was:
    A. self evident
    and
    B. taking away from the rare agreement that Tony gets, and why deprive him of an actual agreement, since he gets so few here.

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