Tags: Presidential History | hillary clinton | causes | first lady | hillarycare

Hillary Clinton and 'Hillarycare': The Cause That Defined President Bill Clinton's First Lady

By    |   Tuesday, 11 August 2015 06:21 PM

Before Hillary Clinton set her sights on the White House as president, she served as first lady alongside her husband, President Bill Clinton, from 1993 to 2001.

Within days of taking office, President Clinton, whose Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress, established the Task Force on National Health Care Reform and named the first lady as its chair.

But the Clinton push for universal health coverage would ultimately fall short. In September 1994, Congress abandoned health reform legislation, which some critics dubbed "Hillarycare," owing to her role in its creation.

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"And when that plan went down to defeat, many people assigned her a large share of the blame," Paul Starr, a senior health policy adviser in the Clinton White House, wrote in 2007 for The American Prospect.

Some histories of the doomed healthcare initiative say that, in hindsight, the administration took on too big a task. The Center for the Study of Presidents and Congress concluded that "a sweeping overhaul of such a large portion of the economy was unacceptable to the U.S. political system in 1994."

Others say the White House didn't help its own cause. Exhibit A for many critics was the task force's final report: a 1,324-page legislative blueprint intended to be the basis of a health reform law.

"Hillary's Health Care Task Force delivers massive, complicated 1,342-page bill to Congress," the Philadelphia Inquirer described it in a timeline from 1998.

The proposal was to expand coverage by mandating that employers offer health policies and that individuals buy them through a new, government-regulated network of insurance cooperatives called alliances.

The task force was sued in federal court just weeks after it was established, with plaintiffs accusing the first lady of illegally concealing its membership and its deliberations.

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"After 20 months, we conceded defeat," Hillary Clinton wrote in "Living History," a 2003 memoir. "We knew we had alienated a wide assortment of health care industry experts and professionals, as well as some of our own legislative allies. Ultimately, we could never convince the vast majority of Americans who have health insurance that they wouldn't have to give up benefits and medical choices to help the minority of Americans without coverage."

Clinton moved on to a smaller-scale project: the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expanded coverage to millions of children in lower-income households. It was passed in 1997.

"No other policy issue defined Mrs. Clinton in the '90s as starkly as healthcare," The New York Times reported in 2005, while Clinton was a U.S. senator. "Not only did her effort to establish universal health insurance end in embarrassing defeat for her husband's administration, but it also emboldened Republicans and contributed to the notion that she was a big-government liberal."

Looking back on that lost battle in "Living History," Clinton wrote, "I knew I had contributed to our failure, both because of my own missteps and because I underestimated the resistance I would meet as a first lady with a political mission."

She also agreed with critics who said the Clinton plan turned out to be too much, too soon. "That said," she wrote, "I still believe we were right to try."

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Before Hillary Clinton set her sights on the White House as president, she served as first lady alongside her husband, President Bill Clinton, from 1993 to 2001.
hillary clinton, causes, first lady, hillarycare
Tuesday, 11 August 2015 06:21 PM
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