Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said her health care reform plan — coming more than a decade after a first attempt at comprehensive reform during the administration of President Bill Clinton — will succeed politically because, she believes, "it builds on what works and changes what doesn't."
In a conference call with New Hampshire reporters Tuesday, the New York senator said the America Health Choices Plan gives Americans a wider range of health care choices and provides for universal coverage — while also confronting issues of cost containment and increasing quality.
"I've been listening to stories about people worried about the health care they have or worried about access," she said about the full proposal, which was announced in Iowa on Monday. This "plan meets the need."
Clinton's advisers estimate the plan will cost $110 billion annually and will be paid for by a rollback of Bush-era tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 and with savings coming after investments in medical records technology.
Recent polling in New Hampshire and nationally shows that health care remains the dominant domestic issue.
The "worried" voters Clinton referred to have become more numerous, according to recently released federal census figures. Around 47 million Americans were without health insurance in 2006 — an increase from an estimated 44.8 million in 2005.
In the first-in-the-nation-primary state, the number of uninsured people also grew to 150,000 in 2006 from 126,000 in 2005.
A spokesperson for New Hampshire for Health Care, one of the state's largest health care advocacy groups, said the group welcomes Clinton's plan but is studying it before offering an analysis.
"Our top two concerns are how will it cover all Americans and how will it be funded," said Zandra Rice Hawkins. She added that what the group's 62,000 members want to see is a president making health care a top priority.
Clinton, who has admitted to nursing political scars from her first attempt at spearheading reform, laughed when asked if she was prepared for a rerun of the "Harry and Louise" commercials that anti-reform opponents ran in 1993 and 1994.
The commercials accused Clinton of wanting to take away choice and replace it with an inefficient, costly government-run system.
"It's gonna be much harder this time," said Clinton about opportunities to distort her intentions. "It isn't government-run and creates no new bureaucracies. Americans have learned a lot in the past 15 years. Americans from all walks of life won't get fooled again."
Critics from both parties didn't wait long to accuse Clinton of advocating a costly government program — or being too close to corporate interests to enact real reform.
"Let's not have HillaryCare — Hillary in charge of our health care. Let's put people in charge of our health care," said Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. "And the reality is the only thing that brings down cost and increases quality is a large consumer market, not government command and control."
Democratic rival John Edwards said Clinton had taken too much lobbyist money to be credible.
"I don't believe you can sit down with the lobbyists, take their money, and cut a deal with them. If you defend the system that defeated health care, I don't think you can be a president who will bring health care," Edwards said.