Mrs. Clinton Has Entered the Race: The 2004 Democratic Presidential Candidates’ Proposals to Reform Health Insurance

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In 1992 Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas unseatedincumbent President George H. W. Bush in part bytapping voter dissatisfaction with the rising cost ofhealth insurance and the growing number ofAmericans without health insurance. Despite amassive legislative campaign directed by then-firstlady Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Clinton administration'ssweeping proposal to increase federalcontrol over the health care sector languished andeventually died in Congress. Today, with healthinsurance costs once again rising at double-digitrates and the number of uninsured Americans at anew high, the Democratic candidates for presidenthave lined up their own health insurance reformproposals. The major candidates are Army Gen.Wesley Clark (ret.), former governor of VermontHoward Dean, Sen. John Edwards (NC), Sen. JohnKerry (MA), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH), Sen. JoeLieberman (CT), and Rev. Al Sharpton. Before leavingthe race, Rep. Richard Gephardt (MO) also putforward a major health care proposal.

Unfortunately, the candidates' health plansreflect the same misconceptions as and rely onapproaches similar to those of the failed Clintonhealth plan. Like the Clinton health plan, theymisdiagnose what ails the health care sector;would attempt to direct the provision of healthcare from Washington, DC, through increasedtaxes, government spending, and bureaucraticcontrol; and would magnify the perverse incentivescreated by past government interventions.Like that of the Clinton health plan, theirresponse to the use of unconstitutional governmentpower in the health care sector is to wieldeven more unconstitutional power.

The five major candidates early on in the 2004 race (Clark, Dean, Edwards, Kerry, and Lieberman) would each have taken incremental steps toward a government-run health care system. The two long-shot candidates in the race (Kucinich and Sharpton) would have taken a more aggressive approach, calling for an immediate government takeover. Although Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) disappointed many Democratic Party faithful by forgoing a race for president this year, judging by the health care proposals in the field of contenders, her influence is being clearly felt.

Michael F. Cannon

Michael Cannon is a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas.