Apparently ignorant of Clinton and Obama plans, Matthews has some advice for them on health-care coverage

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

On Morning Joe, Chris Matthews asserted that "if a Democrat were smart, who gets elected president, they wouldn't go back to the old Canadian model ... single-payer model." In fact, neither Sen. Barack Obama nor Sen. Hillary Clinton has proposed a health-care plan that resembles the Canadian health-care system or a "single-payer model." Matthews also suggested that the Democratic candidates should "take something that looks practical out of Massachusetts with Mitt Romney... and put [their] name on it" and "try some kind of mandated benefit." However, Obama's and Clinton's health-care proposals both include "mandated benefit[s]," and Clinton's plan has drawn comparisons to the plan Romney implemented in Massachusetts.

During the March 11 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, guest Chris Matthews asserted that in order to "get something done in this country," politicians need to "do the surprising move that grabs the center" and that "if a Democrat were smart, who gets elected president, they wouldn't go back to the old Canadian model ... single-payer model." In fact, neither Sen. Barack Obama nor Sen. Hillary Clinton has proposed a health-care plan that resembles the Canadian health-care system or a "single-payer model." Matthews also suggested that the Democratic candidates should "take something that looks practical out of Massachusetts with [former Gov.] Mitt Romney [R] ... and put [their] name on it" and "try some kind of mandated benefit." However, Obama's and Clinton's health-care proposals both include "mandated benefit[s]," and Clinton's plan has drawn comparisons to the plan Romney implemented in Massachusetts.

Contrary to Matthews' suggestion, the health-care plans proposed by Obama and Clinton do not follow the "Canadian model," which provides federally funded and managed universal health insurance. Obama's health-care plan does not require the government to manage or fund health insurance for all Americans; rather, his plan allows individuals to keep -- and pay for -- their private health insurance if they so choose, while establishing "a new public insurance program, available to Americans who neither qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP [the State Children's Health Insurance Program] nor have access to insurance through their employers, as well as to small businesses that want to offer insurance to their employees."

A Clinton campaign summary of her health-care program says: "Americans can keep their existing coverage or access the same menu of quality private insurance options that their Members of Congress receive through a new Health Choices Menu. ... In addition to the broad array of private options that Americans can choose from, they will be offered the choice of a public plan option similar to Medicare." The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog noted on October 24, 2007, that "the Clinton plan does not force Americans to accept 'government insurance.' It offers people a choice. If they are happy with their present health plan, they can keep it. Otherwise, they can switch to the plans offered to members of Congress, or a government-run plan similar to Medicare."

Matthews asserted:

MATTHEWS: Now, if a Democrat were smart, who gets elected president, they wouldn't go back to the old Canadian model, where they're all -- you know, single-payer model. They'd say, "Wait a minute. Why don't I take something that looks practical out of Massachusetts with Mitt Romney, something practical that [California Gov. Arnold] Schwarzenegger's [R] trying to do, and put my name on it and say, 'Let's try that. Let's try some kind of mandated benefit. Let's try some kind of effort where businesses and young people have to pay their way. Let's do something that sounds vaguely Republican and self-reliant' " -- if you're a Democrat.

Matthews later added, "[U]nless you grab the excitement and novelty of the American people with something dramatic, you're not going to do it. I don't know whether Hillary Clinton has that in her to do that; I don't know if Barack Obama does." In fact, Clinton's and Obama's plans both feature "mandated benefit[s]," which the National Association of Health Underwriters defines as "requirements on the content of private health benefit plan contracts." According to Clinton's plan, "Businesses, employees, and the uninsured will have the option of buying group insurance through a new Health Choices Menu," the benefits of which "will be as good as those offered to Members of Congress. Such coverage includes mental health parity, and many plans offer dental coverage." In addition, under Clinton's plan, "insurers must cover high priority preventive services that experts agree are proven and effective."

The Obama plan "will make available a new national health plan to all Americans, including the self-employed and small businesses, to buy affordable health coverage that is similar to the plan available to members of Congress." The plan would "cover all essential medical services, including preventive, maternity and mental health care." Further, "The Obama plan will create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals who wish to purchase a private insurance plan. The Exchange will act as a watchdog group and help reform the private insurance market by creating rules and standards for participating insurance plans to ensure fairness and to make individual coverage more affordable and accessible. ... The Exchange will require that all the plans offered are at least as generous as the new public plan and have the same standards for quality and efficiency."

Moreover, contrary to Matthews' suggestion that Clinton might be unwilling to adopt a plan resembling Romney's, The Boston Globe reported in a September 18, 2007, article that "the central premise of Clinton's plan -- an 'individual mandate' requiring that every American have health insurance -- is precisely what Romney proposed in the Bay State, in what was seen as a bold approach to attaining universal coverage." The Globe also noted that one of the "few differences between Clinton's plan and the law Romney signed" is that Clinton's plan "does not open any new government agency, according to the campaign, unlike the Massachusetts law, which created the Health Connector to help uninsured people obtain insurance."

Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted (here, here, here, and here) instances in which media outlets have uncritically reported false Republican accusations that Clinton's and Obama's health care plans are "socialized" or require the "government to take over the health-care system in America."

From the March 11 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

MATTHEWS: Can I talk about something closer to home, which is a domestic reality? You know, I try to figure this political thing like you guys all the time. I'm always figuring, how do we get something done in this country so we're not in this rut of blaming the other party all the time? Inevitably, what works is not this 3 yards and a cloud of dust of "I'll move my 50 percent up to 60 percent, I'll get 60 senators for my liberal position," 'cause that never happens. It never -- everybody says they're going to do it, so they get to 55 senators with five Republicans. It never gets done.

What you have to be is really creative, with Inchon landings like in the Korean War, like [Gen. Douglas] MacArthur did. Like [former President Richard] Nixon did with China. Like [former French President Charles] de Gaulle did with Algeria. You gotta do the surprising move that grabs the center. Right?

Now, if a Democrat were smart, who gets elected president, they wouldn't go back to the old Canadian model, where they're all -- you know, single-payer model. They'd say, "Wait a minute. Why don't I take something that looks practical out of Massachusetts with Mitt Romney, something practical that Schwarzenegger's trying to do, and put my name on it and say, 'Let's try that. Let's try some kind of mandated benefit. Let's try some kind of effort where businesses and young people have to pay their way. Let's do something that sounds vaguely Republican and self-reliant' " -- if you're a Democrat. You know why? 'Cause it would pass. And you'd have national health insurance. But if you keep pushing from your ideological end, you never get there.

This country's not going to change its mind about ideology. It's always going to be something like this, 50-50. But if you do the surprising entry, the crossover, the surprising move, the surprising alliances. If you do something that sounds, "God, that sounds vaguely Republican. But you know what? It might work. OK, let's do it." In other words, unless you grab the excitement and novelty of the American people with something dramatic, you're not going to do it. I don't know whether Hillary Clinton has that in her to do that; I don't know if Barack Obama does. But maybe Obama has a better shot because he's the new guy.

But I'm just telling you, we're not going to get nothing done in this country -- anything done in this country if we argue over Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, climate change, energy independence. Every issue we've got is stuck in a rut because both sides are fighting 50-50.

JOE SCARBOROUGH (co-host): But I think the good news is, whether you're talking about John McCain, a guy who has worked with the Democratic Party --

MATTHEWS: He can do it.

SCARBOROUGH: -- or you're talking about Barack Obama, a guy who's getting votes from Republicans, or you talk about Hillary Clinton, a woman that receives high praise from senators who have worked for her, I think, Chris, we're a lot closer to that than we've been in 16 years.

MATTHEWS: McCain, by the way -- you've just nailed it. I think McCain is better at that cross-the-aisle, surprising move, surprising concession that leads to the surprising victory. You know, by the way, the Brits always say, "Concede the principle. Win on the practicalities."

[laughter]

You can have the flag. We want the waterworks.

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah.

JOHN RIDLEY (contributor): [unintelligible]

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I think with these three candidates remaining, I think, you know, Hillary Clinton --

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): It's fascinating.

SCARBOROUGH: -- of the United States Senate is not Hillary Clinton of the 1993 health care. She worked with Republicans. So --

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe any one of the three can do it. But I think that's what the country wants. They want the surprising alliance.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Morning Joe
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.