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.