The big news from Sen. Hillary Clinton’s Monday health care speech in Iowa is that she is going to make a campaign for health care for all — not just small changes but fundamental reform — a central element of her campaign for the White House.
Before the speech Jonathan Cohn was not the only health care reporter asking the question, “Will she flinch? . . . Would she settle on something less than universal coverage, figuring the political support for it was too weak?” She didn’t. She responded to the American majority clamoring for bold leadership to achieve health care for everyone.
Clinton would achieve universal coverage by offering an array of private insurance plans that meet the standards for benefits and premium costs set by the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program — the quality plan covering members of Congress and other federal workers. And she would also offer a public health care plan similar to Medicare.
All of these plans would be portable through life changes, such as when you leave or lose a job. Employers would be required to provide their employees health insurance or pay into a fund to defray the cost of covering those employees. (Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees would be exempt, while getting tax breaks to encourage them to offer coverage.) All Americans would be able to buy into any one of the available private insurance or public plans — with a graduated system of tax credits designed to make sure that no one pays more than an (unspecified) reasonable percentage of their income on health premiums.
It is no coincidence that the basic elements are similar to those already proposed by her main presidential primary competitors. The “ideas primary” between the candidates has been shaped in part by our unique effort — chronicled in this blog all year — to engage the candidates around Yale Professor Jacob Hacker’s progressive health care plan, “Health Care for America.”