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By Kris Hundley September 18, 2007

Pure hyperbole

Is Hillary Clinton's plan "socialized medicine"?

In Tampa on Monday, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani said of Clinton's plan: "What they will do is socialized medicine."

Mitt Romney made a similar statement, calling Clinton's plan "a European-style socialized medicine plan — that's where it leads — and that's the wrong direction for America."

Clinton's plan would call for individuals or their employers to bear all or part of the cost of health premiums. It would also rely on private insurance companies to offer plans, just as they do today through the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program.

The government insurance that would be offered under Clinton's plan would be modeled on traditional Medicare, which has been supported by both political parties.

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Uwe Reinhardt, a professor of economics at Princeton University, said the Clinton plan relies heavily on private insurance companies to provide coverage.

"If the insurance industry calculates this carefully, they'll make money off it," he said.

According to Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary , socialized medicine is "a system of medical care regulated and controlled by the government, in which the government assumes responsibility for providing for the health needs and hospital care of the entire population, at no direct cost or at a nominal fee to the individual, by means of subsidies obtained by taxation."

It's inaccurate to call Clinton's proposal "socialized medicine." It doesn't meet that definition because the government would not control the system and because of the heavy involvement of private insurance companies — which could turn a profit from the plan.

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