- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2000

Hillary Rodham Clinton is not a doctor. She just plays one on TV. In two new Senate campaign ads, the first lady promises to improve health care for New Yorkers and assails her opponent's criticism of the liberal "Patients' Bill of Rights." Is a firefight over health policy about to ensue?

Let's hope so, because nothing could be more important to New Yorkers than understanding this vital issue's impact on working families.

Throughout her career in Washington and Arkansas, Hillary has proven her enthusiasm for making Big Government even bigger. Now she seeks the opportunity to enact more policies that would wrest money, freedom and personal control from working families and deliver them to politicians in Washington. Nowhere is this more true than in the health care arena.

American medicine remains the highest-quality on Earth. But reforms still are badly needed. For example, 3,177,000 New Yorkers lacked health insurance last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This number has climbed steadily since Hillary arrived in Washington in 1993. Yet the "Patients' Bill of Rights" she supports would expand government regulation and increase the ranks of uninsured families. She also opposes free-market reforms, such as $3,000 tax credits for uninsured families to buy private health insurance or expanded, tax-free medical savings accounts. Such ideas would leave money in people's hands to invest in the health coverage they desire. Likewise, many New York seniors struggle to purchase prescription drugs.

Yet Hillary vigorously opposes giving seniors a choice of drug benefit plans or providing targeted prescription drug assistance to the neediest of seniors.

Instead, she advocates slapping Canadian-style price controls on U.S. pharmaceuticals, a dangerous plan that would deny patients the newest drugs and stop the flow of research and development funds to create tomorrow's miracle treatments for cancer and AIDS patients, among others.

The question New Yorkers will face this fall is whether they agree with Hillary's cure for the ills that beset our health care system. Try this quiz to see where you stand:

(1) If you had political power, would you create a Secret Task Force to redesign the U.S. health care system representing one-seventh of our economy and put doctors and patients under the control of politicians and bureaucrats?

(2) Would you design a system of federal fines, penalties, and jail terms for doctors and hospitals that ran afoul of the health care rules your Secret Task Force developed?

(3) Do you believe the U.S. government should establish a National Health Board and a global budget that would cap health spending, even if that means people likely would wait weeks and months for diagnostic tests and surgery, as routinely happens in Canada?

(4) Would you dismiss the needs of small business owners many of them women and minorities by telling audiences: "I can't be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America," especially those unable to afford mandatory health insurance for their employees?

(5) Do you think Americans should be prohibited from spending their own money to buy medical services they want or need that aren't pre-approved by Washington bureaucrats?

(6) Would you force Americans to pay massive new taxes upwards of $100 billion-per-year for government-directed health insurance that may not even provide the services they want or need?

(7) Do you assume Americans aren't smart enough to make decisions about their own health care (even though they are presumably smart enough to choose their senators) and that politicians and bureaucrats should tell people what they can and cannot do?

If you answered, "yes," to these questions, then you are a true-blue Hillary fan. All of these elements and much more were included in the 1,342-page Health Security Act designed by the first lady and her 500-member White House task force in 1993. If you answered, "no," to these questions, you should examine Hillary's health record more closely.

"When people ask me if I am discouraged about the defeat of health care reform, I say, 'Yes, I was disappointed that we were not able to make more progress,' " Hillary declares on her campaign web site. "But I learned about what is possible in the political environment. I come from the school of smaller steps now."

Translation: If she gets her chance, Hillary Rodham Clinton will impose her top-down, Washington-knows-best health plan one step at a time.

Are New Yorkers ready to swallow such a bitter pill?

Grace-Marie Arnett is president of the Galen Institute, a national health policy organization, and editor of "Empowering Health Care Consumers through Tax Reform" (University of Michigan Press, 1999).

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