Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Plan Suffers from a Complex Case of Bureaucracy

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Plan Suffers from a Complex Case of Bureaucracy

Article excerpt

On the subject of health care, the choice is between reform and revolution - improving the medical insurance system in increments or drastically remaking it. Every day, it becomes clearer that President Bill Clinton has marooned himself on the wrong side of that divide.

This is no small accomplishment. Solving health-care problems was supposed to be one of the main reasons the American people elected Clinton. Inattention to the issue had injured Republicans, starting with the 1991 Pennsylvania Senate race in which underdog Democrat Harris Wofford beat Richard Thornburgh, then-President George Bush's former attorney general. Wofford's campaign line: "If criminals have the right to a lawyer, I think working Americans should have the right to a doctor."

When Clinton arrived in Washington, polls showed an eagerness for health-care changes, and he was poised to capitalize on it. But so far, he has proven conspicuously inept at transforming that vague sentiment into concrete support. Part of the problem is the crushing complexity of the president's own proposal, which not one Clinton admirer in 20 could possibly understand, much less explain.

Congress has noticed the disenchantment. Employer mandates appear to be dead. Universal coverage is being postponed or dropped in favor of something less. Funding mechanisms are elusive. Far from winning over Republicans, Clinton has alienated a lot of Democrats. And even if he does get something through Congress that he can embrace, there is no assurance it will evoke enthusiasm in the American people.

Part of the problem is the formidable hubris of his health-care czar, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her only pleasure seems to be savoring her disgust with the status quo - a disgust so disproportionate to the system's failings as to suggest intemperate zeal. Turning health care over to her goes against the grain, like turning your children over to the Red Guards.

Contributing to the administration's frustration is that Americans are not really that unhappy with the current health insurance system. Despite all the grousing, more than 80 percent confess they are satisfied with the insurance they have and the care they get. …

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