Things move fast in Iowa. Within minutes of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's unveiling of a mandatory health insurance plan in Des Moines critiques were rolling in from rivals on both sides of the political fence.
"While she talks about the political scars she bears, the personal scars borne by the American people are far greater," said Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. "The mismanagement of the effort in 1993 and 1994 has set back our ability to move toward universal health care immeasurable. We've known what the problems have been for nearly 15 years, and what the solutions could be. What's been missing is leadership that knows how to bring people together and get the job done."
Dodd went on to add that affordable health care will take more than leadership "that simply knows how to fight — it will take leadership that knows how to bring people together and win."
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said Clinton's plan was similar to his, rolled out earlier this year. In addition to pointing out the differences between the two plans, Democratic contender Obama also alluded to Clinton's failed plan during the 1990s by stating that no plan could be enacted without "an open process."
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Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards stayed on message by strengthening the ropes he's forged to tie Clinton to Washington insiders.
"The cost of failure 14 years ago isn't anybody's scars or political fortune, it's the millions of Americans who have now gone without health care for more than 14 years and the million more still crushed by the costs," he said. "So I'm glad that the architect of the 1993 plan has another care proposal — and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I'm flattered. But unless Senator Clinton's willing to acknowledge the truth about our broken government and the costs of health care reform, I'm afraid flattery will get us nowhere."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential hopeful, didn't let the fact of the nomination process still being underway prevent him from attacking the Democratic front-runner for what he termed "a reprising of 'Hillarycare.'"
"In her plan, we have government insurance instead of private insurance," he said. "In her plan, it's crafted by Washington; it should be crafted by the states. In her plan, we have government Washington managed health care. Instead, we should rely on the private markets to guide health care."
It was roughly 13 years ago that Clinton's first effort at improving health care was abandoned. Today in Des Moines, she rolled out a plan with little in common with her earlier effort.
The centerpiece is an "individual mandate," requiring everyone to carry health insurance — similar to most state's requirement of auto liability insurance. Obama's health care plan is now the only within the Democratic field that does include such a mandate.
Clinton's plan does not dismantle, but instead builds on existing employer-based systems. People who receive insurance through the workplace could continue without interruption. Businesses would be required to offer insurance to employees or contribute to a government-run pool that would help pay for those not covered. There is also a tax subsidy component to help small businesses afford worker coverage.
Those not covered — or not covered adequately — by employers, would be offered enhanced versions of either Medicare or the health insurance plan currently available to federal employees. Clinton stressed today in Des Moines that no new government bureaucracy would be created with her plan.
"Don't let them fool us again," Clinton said. "This is not government-run. There will be no new bureaucracy."
Such assurances, however, were not good enough for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani who attacked her plan as "socialized medicine." In a released statement, the Republican rival said the Clinton plan would raise taxes and create health care delays that have "plagued state healthcare patients in Canada and Britain."
The Clinton plan comes with a $110 billion per year price tag. According to Clinton aids, it would be paid for, in part, by ending some of the Bush-era tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year.