Clinton unveils mandatory health care insurance plan

CNN | September 18, 2007

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton announced a $110 billion health care reform plan Monday that would require all Americans to have health insurance.

Clinton unveiled her "American Health Choices Plan," during a high-profile speech at a hospital in the key campaign state of Iowa, surrounded by supporters, American flags and campaign banners.

"Here in America people are dying because they couldn't get the care they needed when they were sick.

"I'm here today because I believe it is long past time that this nation had an answer," Clinton said. "I believe America is ready for change.

"It's time to provide quality affordable health care for every American," Clinton said. "And I intend to be the president who accomplishes that goal finally for our country."

A Clinton adviser compares the plan's "individual mandate" -- which requires everyone to have health insurance -- to current rules in most states that require all drivers to purchase auto insurance, according to The Associated Press.

In her plan, Clinton said families would receive tax credits to help pay for coverage. The tax credit would be designed to limit the premiums to a percentage of a family's income.

Federal subsidies would be provided for those who are not able to afford insurance, and large businesses would be expected to provide or help pay for their employees' insurance.

Clinton said her plan would not require small businesses to take part, but will offer tax credits to encourage them to do so.

About 46.6 million people in the United States were without health care insurance in 2005, including 8.3 million children, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released last year.

"I know my Republican opponents will try to equate this plan with government-run health care. Well don't let them fool you again," Clinton said, explaining that her plan would allow participants to "keep the doctors you know and trust" while it would expand "personal choice" and keep costs down.

Clinton's package would also require insurers to provide coverage for anyone who applies for it and would also bar insurance companies from charging people with greater health care costs more for their premiums.

Under Clinton's plan, Americans would be offered the same health care benefits of private health care plans offered to Congress through the federal employee benefits program as well as a public program similar to Medicare.

Americans satisfied with their current coverage will be allowed to keep it, the Clinton campaign said.

To help pay for the plan, Clinton would also eliminate the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 and limit the amount employers can exclude from taxes for health care benefits paid for those making over $250,000.

Clinton's announcement marks her return to the health care game, nearly a decade and a half after her first foray. As first lady, Clinton spearheaded the Clinton administration's attempt to overhaul the country's health care system in 1993 and 1994.

But critics attacked the Clintons' plan as socialized medicine, and it was killed by opposition from congressional Republicans and many in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. It was Clinton's biggest political defeat.

Now Clinton is the third of the front-running Democratic White House hopefuls to formally unveil her plan, following Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, and former Sen. John Edwards.

Supporters defend Clinton by saying that she has already made parts of her proposals public, and she often speaks out publicly about her health care plans.

Clinton's Democratic rivals wasted no time in reminding voters of her timing.

"I commend Senator Clinton for her health care proposal," said Obama in a statement. "It's similar to the one I put forth last spring, though my universal health care plan would go further in reducing the punishing cost of health care than any other proposal that's been offered in this campaign."

Edwards, speaking Monday to the Laborers' International Union of North America in Chicago, Illinois, echoed Obama. 

"I'm glad that, today, the architect of the 1993 plan has another care proposal -- and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I'm flattered," said Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina. "The lesson Senator Clinton seems to have learned from her experience with health care is, 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.' I learned a very different lesson from decades of fighting powerful interests -- you can never join 'em, you just have to beat 'em."

Edwards' proposal would cut off health care for the president, Congress and all political appointees in mid 2009, if a universal health care plan for all Americans has not been passed by then.

Clinton's Democratic rival, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, used her past attempts at health care reform in criticizing Clinton's proposal.

"The mismanagement of the effort in 1993 and 1994 has set back our ability to move toward universal health care immeasurably," Dodd said in a statement. "We've known what the problems have been for nearly 15 years and what the solutions could be. What's been missing is leadership that knows how to bring people together and get the job done."

Clinton also took hits from GOP presidential hopefuls, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose criticism sounded like a movie review. 

"If you liked Michael Moore's 'Sicko,' you're going to love HillaryCare 2.0," said the Giuliani statement. "Senator Clinton's latest health scheme includes more government mandates, expensive federal subsidies and more big bureaucracy -- in short, a prescription for an increase in wait times, a decrease in patient care and tax hikes to pay for it all."

Another Republican White House hopeful, Mitt Romney, accused Clinton of taking "her inspiration from European bureaucracies." 

"Instead we should take our inspiration from the American people," said the former Massachusetts governor. "Hers is a plan which I think underscores the fact that she fundamentally does not believe in markets and in the states. And I believe that our inspiration should come from American families."