Hillary Clinton on Health Care Reform: Part I

The botched attempt to pass comprehensive health care reform remains one of the seminal events of the Clinton Administration. It was the first time a First Lady was given responsibility for passage of such an immense public policy undertaking. Hillary Clinton undertook the responsibility with zeal, deploying a massive task force to thoroughly examine the issues and deliver a solution to the American people.

What they came up with went down in flames.

In part, this stems from the political deafness displayed by now Senator Hillary Clinton and members of her task force. There was the brilliant way they demeaned and ignored members of Congress, the rightousness in which they cloaked their arguments and the arrogance. Oh, the arrogance.

In one memorable instance for insurance agents, Hillary Clinton told Lori Proctor, a broker from Ohio, that there being no role in her plan for agents was OK, because, “… someone as bright as you could find something else to do.” An arrogant response to a legitimate question, made more foolish by making it in front of a Wall Street Journal reporter.

My favorite example of the Clinton Task Force arrogance came from Walter Zelman, formerly a deputy California Insurance Commission under (now Lieutenant Governor) John Garamendi. He explain that when Garamendi tried to remake California’s health care system it required a document of only a couple dozen pages. Now, as a member of the the Clinton Administration, he was pleased they had hundreds of pages worth of reform because that’s what it took to cover all the possible consequences of the Clinton plan. The audacity of believing a group of people could impact one-fifth of the nation’s economy and not come afoul of the law of unintended consequences, struck me as monumental folly — and unmatched arrogance.

I led the National Association of Health Underwriters’ legislative efforts during the Clinton health care debate. At one point I had the priviledge of testifying before four Congressional sub-committees in a single week. What the Clinton forces did manage to do is raise health care reform to the dominate political issue of its time. What they failed to do was accomplish anything, a squandering of an opportunity that impacts the country — and the health care reform debate — to this day.

So now Hillary Clinton is running for president. What would be in store for the country if she were to win? That’s the topic of my next post.