When the history of the 1994 healthcare reform effort is written, it's very possible that a couple of fictional yuppies named Harry and Louise may be credited with the death of the Clinton healthcare reform proposal.
But the plan was largely a victim of its own bureaucratic bloat. And, as the success of Harry and Louise indicates, it was a victim of the Clinton administration's failure to effectively respond to the concerns of the American public about quality and choice in medical care.
Bill Gradison, the president of the Health Insurance Association of America, said his organization undertook the $14 million advertising campaign featuring Harry and Louise because it believed it was ignored by the White House as the Clinton plan was being developed.
After conceiving its plan in secret, the administration allowed unions and senior citizens and consumer groups to pitch managed competition, Clinton style. For his part, President Clinton has tried to turn healthcare reform into a "campaign" issue, hitting the hustings over the spring congressional recess with a message that was little different from those he has delivered each time the White House has attempted to jump-start the faltering campaign.
As we've said before, quite a bit of the Clinton strategy for healthcare reform makes good sense. It would encourage preventive care, promote primary care, simplify insurance claims and revamp the malpractice system.
But constant repetition of the administration's gospel of reform isn't getting Mr. Clinton where he wants to go. He must listen to what members of the public want, determine how to incorporate their concerns into a plan and begin crafting a compromise that will work and can pass.