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Health care reform, then and now: New York Times’ style — MedCity Morning Read, Sept. 7, 2009

There is a political cost to doing nothing. That was the conclusion reached many months ago by President Barack Obama and his closest aides as they tried to learn from the failure of the Clinton administration to reform the nation’s health care system in the mid-1990s. So the Obama White House is doing reform differently.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There is a political cost to doing nothing. That was the conclusion reached many months ago by President Barack Obama and his closest aides as they tried to learn from the failure of the Clinton administration to reform the nation’s health care system in the mid-1990s, according to the New York Times.

The political cost soon came home to roost: Democrats and their dysfunction over health care reform lost a 40-year dominance in Congress, the New York Times said. The Republican Party took note.

Now, the cost lesson is being revived will be the message pressed by the Obama White House as congressional legislators return from their summer recess this week, the Times said. Legislators are more divided than before the recess, and they also are spooked by turbulent town-hall-styled meetings in their home precincts.

In the face of the turbulence, downbeat polls and truth distortions of August, Obama and his aides will repeat the message: There is a political cost to doing nothing, the Times said.

The 15-year-old lesson underlines how much the Clinton-era failure is informing the Obama administration’s signature initiative on what notto do, the Times said. Those lessons have helped the president’s proposals advance further through Congress than the plan backed by Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1993 and 1994, according to the Times. All the while, the Obama administration has held the tentative support of powerful special interest groups for doctors, nurses, hospitals, drug makers, “even the insurance companies,” which did the most damage to the Clintons, Obama has said, according to the Times.

But some wonder whether the Obama White House has drawn too much from some lessons and underestimate some hurdles that are unique to today’s battle, the Times said. The loss of two important confidants — former Sen. Tom Daschle, who Obama wanted as Health and Human Services secretary but who withdrew because of tax problems, and Sen. Edward Kennedy, the ardent health reform advocate who died two weeks ago from brain cancer — have been “incalculable” setbacks for pushing legislation through Congress, one Obama aide said, according to the Times.

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