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By Wes Allison October 8, 2007
Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan October 8, 2007

Standing up, but not alone

In a TV ad airing in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sen. Hillary Clinton portrays herself as a leader on health care. "Hillary stood up for universal health care when almost no one else would," the announcer says, "and kept standing till 6-million kids had coverage."

Indeed, the New York senator has a record as an advocate for health care reform. When she was first lady, President Bill Clinton appointed her to head the President's Task Force on National Health Reform. But the group formulated a plan that ended up going down in defeat. It was one of the most significant defeats of President Clinton's first term.

Critics of the Clinton health plan, mostly Republicans, focused on her role and mocked the proposal as Hillary Care. The name has stuck and made a resurgence in the past few weeks since now-candidate Clinton has proposed her own plan.

But did she stand up for universal health care "when almost no one else did"? That's a stretch.

The president obviously also favored it in 1992, but so did every other major Democratic candidate — Jerry Brown, Tom Harkin, Bob Kerrey and Paul Tsongas. It also had support in Congress, though not enough to pass. So we find the "almost no one else" claim to be an exaggeration.

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For the second part of the assertion, the Clinton campaign said the "6-million kids" refers to those who would benefit from the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which passed in 1997 and was funded with cigarette taxes. SCHIP provides federal funding to states, which then put up their own money and set rules to provide health care for uninsured children.

Much of the credit for SCHIP usually goes to Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who shepherded the legislation through a Republican-controlled Congress. But the Clinton campaign says she used her influence behind the scenes to push for SCHIP, and there is evidence to support that.

Shortly after the legislation passed, the New York Times reported, "Participants in the campaign for the health bill both on and off Capitol Hill said the first lady had played a crucial behind-the-scenes role in lining up White House support."

We don't dispute that Clinton worked behind the scenes for SCHIP, but the TV ad gives her disproportionate credit for the entire program. We find that the ad overstates her role on this count and also on the broader issue of universal health care. And so we find the claim to be Half True.

Our Sources

Bill Clinton, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters on Health Care Reform, Jan. 25, 1993.

The Associated Press, "The Issue: National Health Insurance," Feb. 12, 1992.

Reason magazine, "Healthy disagreement; alternatives to Hillarycare," October 1993.

The Orange County Register editorial page, "Hillarycare Lite," Sept. 22, 1996.

Charles Krauthammer (columnist), the Washington Post, "Clinton's One Big Idea," Jan. 22, 1999.

HR 2015, Section J, State Children's Health Insurance Program, Aug. 5, 1997.

The New York Times, Through Senate Alchemy, Tobacco Is Turned Into Gold for Children's Health , Aug. 11, 1997.

Interview with Dr. Anthony Eksterowicz, co-editor, The Presidential Companion, about the evolution of the role of first lady, and professor of political science, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.

Interview with Leon Panetta, former White House chief of staff, President Bill Clinton.

The Associated Press, Clinton claims credit for child program, Oct. 6, 2007.

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