BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Hillary Clinton is meticulously laying the groundwork for a presidential bid in 2008, evident in her recent round of ambitious speeches. The media was too busy reporting on her illness last week to notice a revealing speech she gave in Buffalo the day she fell sick, a speech in which she essentially renewed her call for Hillary Care.
"The richest nation in the world should be able to find some way to provide every citizen with quality, affordable, health coverage," Clinton said , arguing that it is a "moral responsibility" of government to provide such coverage, one that is in line with "our morals and religious obligations to care for the sick." Speaking at Canisius, a Jesuit college libertine enough to host her, Clinton did not explain how this moral vision on behalf of the sick and vulnerable squared with her staunch support for abortion.
Clinton cited a litany of statistics to argue for refashioning the U.S. health insurance system -- none of which hold up. First, Clinton said that the ranks of the "uninsured" are 40 million and growing. This is not true. A May 2003 report by the Congressional Budget Office states: "In recent years, the number of uninsured people in the United States has been pegged at approximately 40 million, or about 16 percent of the nonelderly population. By CBO's analysis, that estimate overstates the number of people who are uninsured all year and more closely approximates the number who are uninsured at a point in time during the year. A more accurate estimate of the number of people who were uninsured for all of 1998 -- the most recent year for which reliable comparative data are available -- is 21 million to 31 million, or 9 percent to 13 percent of nonelderly Americans."
Second, Hillary found it "troubling" that the U.S. "spends more money than any other country in the world" on health care, yet "we don't have results as good as some of the other countries that do have universal coverage," saying that the U.S. ranks "37th in the world in overall quality." This is not true, according to Robert Helms of the American Enterprise Institute, who notes that this U.S. ranking is based on a "very flawed and misleading" United Nations' World Health Organization study.
Helms has written that the WHO "report exhibits a strong ideological preference for health systems that rely on direct government management, an emphasis on equality of delivery and financing, and an absence of direct payment for medical care," observing that the WHO report thinks "health care is a special economic activity requiring intense governmental involvement" -- exactly the type of system Clinton envisages.
Also misleading was Clinton's claim that the U.S. spends "50 percent" more per capita on health care than Switzerland -- "15 percent of GDP" compared to "10.9 percent" -- yet has fewer doctors and nurses than other countries. "We spend more for several reasons," Helms writes, "we are wealthier, our consumers have more choices so are freer to spend as they chose, we have more use of higher technologies (note that lots of Canadians and other foreigners come to this country when they can't get access to newer technologies in their own countries), etc. -- but it is extremely difficult to measure actual differences in medical quality and outcomes. Having more nurses is a symptom of the lower-tech care in other systems. We certainly have more specialized physicians and more access to them than in other countries."
Finally, Clinton said that the "number one reason for family bankruptcy" is due to the uninsured and underinsured having "medical expenses they can't pay." Not so, according to the Galen Institute's Greg Scandlan, who has said that the study which Clinton bases this argument on is "so biased as to be worthless" because it comes from two partisans for universal health care, Harvard doctors Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, "cofounders of Physicians for a National Health Program," a group that has been pushing for a government-run system.
Clinton made sure to avoid any mention of European countries that are moving away from a national health care system. These countries, groaning under the expenses of "free" health care, are looking to the U.S. health care system as a model of reform.
John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis writes that "Advocates of national health insurance would do well to look at how countries like Germany, Sweden, and Australia are choosing free-market reforms to alleviate the problems of their national health systems.…Through painful experience, many of the countries that once heralded the benefits of government control have learned that the best remedy for their countries' health care crises is not increasing government power, but increasing patient power instead."
Worried about the health of her career, Clinton is back to demagoguing health care, proposing Big Government remedies that will make Americans no healthier than she was the day she gave her speech.
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