Friday, September 11, 2009

A Look at Healthcare in 1993 and 2009

"Our history and our heritage tell us that we can meet this challenge. Everything about America’s past tells us that we will do it... Ask yourself whether the cost of staying on the same course isn’t greater than the cost of change."

That quote above easily sounds as though it could of been a line straight from Obama's speech last night. However, it is actually a line that is 16 years old from a speech President Bill Clinton gave in 1993, almost 16 years to the day of Obama's address.

After reading Ted Kennedy's words to Obama about his lifelong fight for healthcare, seeing Hillary in the audience last night and after listening to Obama's hopeful rhetoric for reform, I couldn't help but think back to that speech when another young Democratic hopeful stood before congress and spoke very similar words.

When Obama said he wasn't the first President to take up this issue he was correct. Bill Clinton wasn't the first either... However, I think the closest we got was back in 1993 when Hillary was fighting hard for healthcare alongside the President.

There was an interesting little comparison on Politico today about the eerie similarities between Bill Clinton's address to Congress 16 years ago and the speech Barack Obama gave last night.

The Hill gave a great comparison of the two as well saying, "Both were young, dynamic Democrats renowned for their oratory skills in the first year of their presidencies, pushing a controversial plan to enact sweeping reforms to the healthcare system. Both faced deep divides within their own party, strong skepticism from Republicans and resistance from powerful interest groups."

Words that appeared again and again in both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama's speeches:

“Insurance company:” Obama, five. Clinton, three. “Health care costs:” Obama, three. Clinton, five. “Savings:” Obama, five. Clinton, 16. “Spending:” Obama, two. Clinton, three. “Choice:” Obama, four, Clinton, nine. “Market:” Obama, four, Clinton, three.

Of the 1,293 unique words in Obama’s speech, 630 – or 48 percent – were also used by Clinton in his health care address to Congress.

Although there are so many similarities its scary... there are still many differences. But these differences are good! For example, back in 1993 the healthcare debate was just beginning. Most people were not aware of all the problems within our healthcare system and even many Democrats did not want reform.

Today, even before Obama stepped into office the healthcare debate was on the table and there have been many other health bills that passed since 1993, including bills from Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, John McCain and other Senators and members of Congress.

One big difference is of course the absence, or the appearance of the absence of Hillary Clinton's hand from the healthcare plan. (But remember Hill doesn't discuss what she discusses with Presidents, current or former!)

In Bill's speech back in '93 he spoke of fondly of Hillary's role in the reform effort:

Over the last 8 months, Hillary and those working with her have talked to literally thousands of Americans to understand the strengths and the frailties of this system of ours. They met with over 1,100 health care organizations. They talked with doctors and nurses, pharmacists and drug company representatives, hospital administrators, insurance company executives, and small and large businesses. They spoke with self-employed people. They talked with people who had insurance and people who didn't. They talked with union members and older Americans and advocates for our children. The First Lady also consulted, as all of you know, extensively with governmental leaders in both parties in the States of our Nation and especially here on Capitol Hill. Hillary and the task force received and read over 700,000 letters from ordinary citizens. What they wrote and the bravery with which they told their stories is really what calls us all here tonight.
And let's not forget that Obama isn't the only person to get booed while fighting for the right of Americans to healthcare. There was this speech back in 1994 where Hillary was out stumping for universal healthcare in Seattle when the audience started booing her. Take that Joe Wilson, you aren't the first to boo at universal healthcare! And booing won't stop us!

Last night during Obama's speech, I was hopeful for the future of our healthcare system and I know that although Hillary may not be the one to implement it from the seat of the Presidency, I would bet good money that she is hopeful that real and true reform will happen soon.

I'd love to hear others thoughts on this. Maybe from others that remember more from the year 1993 than I do?? Anyone else see any interesting comparisons?

Read the full transcript of the address here or watch the full video of Bill Clinton's 1993 address to Congress below:


Anonymous said...

I don't understand why Secretary Clinton's work on health care when she was first lady is presented the way it is in the media. Pundits always say she "failed" on health care. I completely disagree. As you said, to many, it was their first indication that something was wrong. I wish people credited her more publicly for her efforts. She is not, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, 'among those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.'

Jackie said...

I agree, she was for Universal Health Care when no one besides Teddy Kennedy was for it. She championed this cause before it was cool. She has said it was very lonely in 90's on this issue. Congress was too scared. Now all you ever hear is how Hillary failed. They just need someone to blame.

Anonymous said...

I agree. It wasn't a failure -- now we can see how hard it is to get anything done on health care. It was truly courageous to take it on at all, and the effort moved the country forward on the issue.

Anonymous said...

Exactly..I agree with all the previous comments. What Hillary did was more courageous. She not only tried to reform health care, but she had the enormous task of explaining why it was necessary in the first place. These days, most folks know something needs to be done, even if they can't agree on what to do.

Hillary has always taken a lot of heat for "not" allowing congress to get involved in the formulation of a bill, but Bill C. said that is exactly the way congressional leaders asked Hillary to do it. The congressional leaders thought those in congress who hadn't done the research on the issue would simply give rise to much floor bickering, and appears to be the case.

Stacy said...

Hillary really put herself out there to try to get all Americans health coverage and the media and the pundits and other politicians were BRUTAL to her!

What is so infuriating is that the public option is actually a compromise for the insurance industry and what Hillary championed was *much* better in terms of actually being TRUE health reform- ie. essentially single payer, and yet some on the right and even on the left, even some Hillary supporters, are calling the public option socialism and anti-capitalist???

I understand why people disagree with Obama's plan, which actually is Congress' plan, because it changes every five minutes and capitulates to the insurance and BigPharma industries- heck, I disagree with it- if I were to sign onto anything floating around Congress right now it would be Ted Kennedy's bill which has a very strong public option and cost-cutting measures, etc. but sadly, I think Obama isn't going to have the backbone to support that.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Stacy......

Sarah said...

Great insight. I agree with all said above!

One thing I didnt mention was how disappointed I was that Obama didn't mention the work that Hillary and Bill did back in the 90s during his speech. I understand that he doesn't want the media to jump all over the, as many have said here, "failed policy" of that time but I feel that the work they did needs to be acknowledged.

If Obama didnt reform healthcare this year he would be considered a failure. Hillary fought at a time when it wasn't the popular thing to do, but it was just the right thing to do.

kmb08 said...

I feel Obama will get a watered down version of the health care reform Hillary wanted, but hopefully, it will be a step in the right direction. With all the advantages Obama has working in his favor, to not get something when the time is so right, would be a legitimate failure, and a dagger to his Presidency.

I, too, wish Obama would give the Clintons credit for opening the door to the health care reform discussion. Hillary worked her heart out researching the issue so thoroughly. I have never felt Obama had the commitment in his gut about health care the way Hillary obviously did and does. If not for Hillary's efforts then, Obama wouldn't have the groundwork necessary to go forward today.

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