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Hillary Learns

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If nothing else, you have to give Sen. Hillary Clinton credit for having the courage to revisit an issue that has dogged her for well over a decade.

(OK, I know some of you don’t and won’t give her credit for anything, but then this column probably isn’t for you.)

Considering how often and how deeply she has been excoriated in print and from podia on her handling in 1993 and 1994 of President Bill Clinton’s massive health care reform package (1300 pages and counting), it would have amazed me if she had only put a toe in the water, so to speak. But here she is, to continue the image, jumping in and going for a swim.

And this despite having been Swift-boated (way before that term came into being) by an oh-so-reasonable couple named Harry and Louise.

Hillary-care (or Clinton One) has become shorthand among the punditocracy for any (Democratic) scheme that would employ massive bureaucracy and severe contortions to reshape what even most conservative commentators would admit is a spotty, unfair, and, in some cases, dysfunctional health care delivery system in this country.

The number of uninsured keeps rising like a river after the dam has burst. We’re getting very close to 50 million people in this country going bare. This, as I’ve said before, is a scandalous and totally unacceptable situation in the richest country on earth.

So, the currents are strong once again for reform and many voices are being raised to universalize the system. Other Democratic contenders have put out their proposals. The issue is so high on the public’s radar screen and causing such widespread angst that presidential aspirants can hardly afford to be seen as not paying attention to it.

You can read the details of Clinton’s new plan in Allison Bell’s story on page 7 of this week’s issue so I won’t go into them here. At some 8 to 10 pages, it’s a far cry from the massive tome that she plunked down in the mid-90s and which can now be found in flea markets (and perhaps on E-bay) in the doorstopper section.

Actually, I think that releasing a new plan not only shows that Hillary Clinton has guts, but also shows something just as rare if not rarer than courage in our current political landscape: namely, the ability to show that you have learned from your mistakes.

Gone is the massive bureaucracy that Clinton One would have established. Gone is taking away choice from people who are happy with their current health insurance coverage. Gone are the signs of arm-twisting and coercion that raised all kinds of hackles before.

It’s a kinder, gentler universal health care plan that doesn’t seek to cut out the health insurance industry.

I know that some in the industry have complained about still being demonized a la 1993, but demonizing health insurers is so much a part of political rhetoric nowadays that this should roll right off their backs.

Deeper down, insurers are probably having to control themselves from jumping up and down with joy–not only do they stay in business under this plan, but they get to write lots and lots of new business.

As incentives, both carrots and sticks have their place, depending on the situation. Clinton Two has a lot more carrots than anyone familiar with Clinton One ever imagined could be forthcoming from the same person.

And that tells you something, whether you give her credit or not.


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