This morning Hillary Clinton took part in Good Morning America’s Town Hall America series. It was televised during GMA and most of it featured Iowans and people across America lobbing softball questions to Hillary about the Iraq war and health care. The only newsworthy portion of the segment was when Clinton was asked about universal health care.

Steve Eckstat: Sen. Clinton, I was part of your 1993 Health Care Task Force. Obviously we weren’t very successful at that time, so as president would you try to create a plan for universal health coverage again?
 

Hillary Clinton: I certainly would. It’s one of the reasons I’m running for president. … I think we’re in a better position to do that today than we were in ’93 or ’94. … It’s hard to ignore the fact that nearly 47 million people don’t have insurance. But also because the people who have insurance find that insurance companies deny what you need. [Also] It’s really hard for small businesses to compete in the economy … if they have to compete with the cost of health care. We spend more money than anyone in the world [on health care] by a very big number. … For all those reasons I believe the American people will make this an issue in the campaign. … I’m very excited about this, and I know that we can do this.
 

Many of the features that any of our health-care plans will have are going to be the same because there are only a couple ways that we can get to universal health coverage. … We can build on the current employment situation. … The other big way of doing it … is to move towards a system that would have Medicare for everybody. … A kind of single-payer system. I think we have to have a uniquely American solution to health care because we’re a different kind of country than anybody else.

I think we will move toward requiring employers to participate the way Massachusetts does or the way California is considering. … And if you don’t insure your employees you’re going to have to pay some kind of per-employee amount so that everybody can be given insurance. During this campaign I want the ideas that people have. I want to hear from you that have different perspectives about what can work. We don’t have informational technology in health care the way we need to. … I’m fighting to get electronic medical records for every American. The reason is it’ll save money, time, avoid duplication. We’re going to have universal health care when I’m president. There’s no doubt about that. We’re going to get it done.

You would think that one of the last topics that a Clinton would ever go near is universal health care, but here is Hillary opening up that con of worms again. Yes, the health care system needs fixed. Yes, it should be done within the existing boundaries of our current system. Most Americans would love to have a better, cheaper, and more flexible health care system, but it sounds to me like Hillary doesn’t have a plan. The idea of mandating that an employer must provide health insurance was already tried in Maryland with a law that was passed requiring large retailers to insure their employees. Wal-Mart went to court, challenged the law, and won.

No matter what plan she comes up with Hillary will always be associated with the failed reform of 93-94. You can be sure that GOP strategists are drooling at the chance to run ads that remind voters of the last time the Clintons tried universal health care. Whether you agree or disagree with it, at least the Edwards campaign has come up with a detailed plan, and not some vague promise of universal coverage. Health care is an important issue, but voters consistently put it behind, Iraq, the economy, and even gas prices in polls. Someone needs to remind the Clintons of what happened the last time they tried universal health care. Hillary must learn that it isn’t 1992 anymore, priorities have changed, and if she wants to be president, she had better start discussing the issues that matter to voters today.

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
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