Bonus: Hillarycare

Following my discussion of basic considerations in health insurance, let’s take a look at some political ads from the 90s.

These are the famous “Harry and Louise” ads, which were used to attack the Health Security Act of 1993 (dubbed Hillarycare by critics). Note that the features they attack in Hillarycare are basically the same as features in Obamacare.

The first ad criticizes Hillarycare for limiting people’s choices in selecting health insurance plans. But is it really about limiting people’s choices, or is it limiting health insurance companies’ choices? Insurance companies were free to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, and people would just have to accept one of the limited range of offers. Furthermore, some people were offered no insurance whatsoever.

The second ad criticizes “community rating”, which means that insurance prices can only be determined by a few factors, such as age and location. While community rating can make prices more expensive for people with lower health costs, it makes it cheaper for people with greater health costs, and there’s likely an overall efficiency boost. It’s not clear that healthier people deserve to be wealthier.

Of course, it’s possible that Hillarycare somehow botched the details, and I don’t have an opinion on that. But sources agree that Hillarycare was more ambitious than Obamacare.

When Hillarycare sank, many liberals blamed Hillary Clinton, who was supposedly spearheading the legislation. Sources are mixed as to whether it was actually her fault. I do find it amusing though, that Hillary is so often attacked being too pragmatic and insufficiently liberal, and yet here is one defining error in her career where apparently she was too liberal and insufficiently pragmatic.

Feel free to add your own observations, and/or tell me how wrong I am.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    It’s been a while, and I don’t have time to dig up cites ‘n’ quotes, but the critique I remember from the time, from usually-reliable rad sources such as Mother Jones, had it that the Clinton plan provoked the backlash exemplified by “Harry and Louise” because it favored the biggest insurance corps over the middle-sized ones (which banded together to lobby & produce “H&L” against it).

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