18 July 2000
500 words

Hillary Clinton on single-payer

NEW YORK, 18 July 2000 -- Hillary Rodham Clinton announced new health proposals for the uninsured on the Senate campaign trail at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. I asked her about single-payer.

Q: Would we be better off with a Canadian-style single payer system if it were politically possible?

Clinton: I think our system has so many unique features to it. You know if we were talking 100 years ago, or 200 years ago, before we developed the kind of mixed system that we've got of public and private resources, I don't know, that's a hypothetical, but given where we are today I think it's imperative that we take it step by step, and that we build on what works.

And we know that people have responded positively in most parts of the country to CHIP [Children's Health Insurance Program]. It's a program that works. We thought it would work. We've got some kinks to iron out so we build on it. And then we take a step to get to additional coverage to parents, and a step to get --

So eventually we'll have people covered but we'll still keep a lot of choice in the system so that people can choose between different plans. They can have alternatives and options. Americans, as we know, we love choice, we believe that we ought to be able to make decisions about our most important matters in life, and health ranks at the top of that.

So I think that what I've outlined today is both financially feasible and politically feasible. And that's why I'm going with that.

The proposal that Clinton announced today would:

1. Expand CHIP eligibility from family income of 200% of the poverty level ($31,000 for a family of 4) to 300% of the poverty level ($51,000 for a family of 4).

2. Allow families of children eligible for CHIP to buy into CHIP or Medicaid. (Clinton previously proposed that the uninsured between 55 and 65 be allowed to buy into Medicare, and have COBRA coverage extended to 55.)

3. Give a refundable tax credit of 25% of the health insurance premium to individuals who cannot get employer-based health insurance.

In an apparent jibe at Texas Gov. George W. Bush, she attacked states that do not use their full CHIP allotment. "I am constantly frustrated," said Clinton, by states that are elligible for CHIP, and do not take the federal money, usually because it requires matching state funds. She proposed taking CHIP funds from the states that did not use it, and giving it to states that use their full allotment, such as New York. Although Clintion did not mention Bush, Texas has one of the worst CHIP participation rates. In contrast to Clinton's plan to raise CHIP eligibility to 300% of the poverty level, Bush tried to lower the eligibility in Texas to 133% of the poverty level. (Salon, Lie of the Week) -- Norman Bauman