A Look Back: The Demise of HillaryCare

Sept. 30, 2014

Topics: Health Care Reform, Politics and Policy

Twenty years ago this week, following an announcement from Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine), President Clinton "chose to take the Republicans up on their promise to tackle the issue again next year." This marked the death of HillaryCare, a more than 20-month effort to reform the nation's health care system headed up by Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

In January 1993, Clinton tapped his wife to head up the reform effort. By April, her team had sketched out a universal coverage plan. Under the draft proposal, all coverage would offer a basic benefits package covering hospital and physicians services, including mental health care and some prescription coverage. Advisers had put together 20 financing options under consideration include tobacco and alcohol excise taxes.

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After spending the better part of the last half of 1993 tweaking the proposal and attempting to sell it to the public, the death knell came for HillaryCare in the court of public opinion. Two people -- specifically, two fictional people -- named Harry and Louise pushed back against reform efforts and ultimately helped turned the tide against them, leading to Mitchell's announcement and Clinton's concession.

And although Republicans vowed that health reform would be a priority in 1995 and news reports indicated that health care reform as a political issue was just getting started, it wasn't until President Obama took office in 2009 that any major efforts were underway to reform the system.

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