The Campaign Continues: How Political Consultants and Campaign Tactics Affect Public Policy

By Douglas A. Lathrop | Go to book overview

6

The Prescription Drug Debate: Flo Makes Her Debut

The anticlimactic failure of the 1994 health care reform effort was a bitter disappointment to President Clinton, his allies on Capitol Hill, and the varied public-interest groups that had lobbied on behalf of national health insurance. Faint hopes for action on a smaller scale in the 104th Congress were dashed a few months later with the ascendance of the new Republican majority. The House Republican's ideological blueprint for governing, the Contract with America, pointedly ignored health care and focused instead on traditional conservative issues such as tax relief, welfare reform, and strengthening national defense. At the beginning of 1995 it was easy to see why health care reform advocates would be disheartened to the point of defeatism. They had squandered a golden opportunity and the subsequent shift in political power seemed to doom their agenda to the margins for the foreseeable future. Initially, their pessimistic outlook was confirmed by congressional retreat. Even congressional Democrats that had lent support to the concepts outlined by President Clinton were wary of tackling health care again. Many in the party attributed the stunning electoral defeat to the botched health care reform effort. Meanwhile, the new majority in Congress saw its success as a vindication of its steadfast opposition to nationalized health care. Yet the assorted policy problems associated with the American health care system, a lack of coverage for millions of Americans, skyrocketing costs, and the unmet health needs of America's elderly did not disappear, and in fact, by some objective economic measures, they grew worse. Prescient Washington observers concluded that it was simply a matter of time before health care would return to the forefront of the political debate.

Five years after his crushing defeat, President Clinton unveiled a new health care initiative to provide prescription drug coverage to seniors as part of Medicare. Although his proposal was not on the order of magnitude of his earlier ef-

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