Thursday, February 21, 2008

Democratic Voters Seek Universal Healthcare

Walter Shapiro [] gives us a bit of insight as to why Hillary's healthcare policy plans would get us closer to universal healthcare than Sen Obama's plan. Mr. Shapiro thinks that Independent voters, split on the mandate debate, might be tempted more by Obama's less-than-universal healthcare plan while Democrats believe the time for truly universal healthcare has come.

Only rigorous enforcement of a mandate to obtain health insurance would bring America to the verge of universal coverage. The enforcement mechanism in her own plan is something that Clinton has carefully reserved to be worked out with Congress after she is elected, though she has expressed interest in less draconian steps, such as automatic enrollment whenever someone visits a doctor or hospital. But whatever the gaps in the eventual Clinton plan (and remember that not even Medicare hits 100 percent coverage), her approach -- as opposed to Obama's -- would almost certainly bring the nation closer to the holy grail of health insurance for all.

But at what political cost? Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy at Harvard and an expert on public polling on the issue, said, "In a primary, getting everybody covered is really important to Democratic voters. But it is somewhat less important to independents. Independents are more split on the question of mandates. So in the general election, not having a mandate is not going to be a problem." Or as Goolsbee, the economic advisor to Obama, argued, "If you're going to do a mandate right off the bat, you're going to expend a lot of political capital to do it."

Chelsea Clinton paid a campaign visit to Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio on February 13th and had this to say about her mother's plan for universal healthcare, according to Adam Feuer [Wright State University's Guardian]:

"How will your mom address the healthcare crisis?"

Chelsea Clinton:
"I'm so proud that my mom stood up for universal healthcare in '93 and '94 before it was fashionable, and she's still standing up for universal healthcare. What she has proposed now does reflect all the lessons that she learned in the 90's. It's not only something that I really support because, philosophically, as a Democrat I support universal healthcare, but also because I know that it is politically achievable, and it has support from doctors and nurses and hospitals and business and labor and the coalition that we know we need to have to really get it done."

"So what does she propose? Well, if you have healthcare and you're happy with it, you can keep it. Because one of the things that she found in '93 and '94 was that plenty of people were happy with their healthcare, or they were intimidated by the prospect of changing. But if you have healthcare and you're not happy with it, or it's not really there when you need it, or it's too expensive for what you do need .. you'll be able to buy into the congressional plan .. that covers the nine million people who work for the federal government .. they're good plans. You can't be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. And one of the things my mom has proposed that is distinctive to her plan is to have mental and dental health parity for all of the plans."

* Mr.Feuer adds: "She also stated that under her mother's proposed plan, anyone who couldn't afford coverage would qualify for Medicaid."