Clinton White House Memo from 1994 Worries About Promising People They Can Keep Their Doctor

March 1st, 2014

From the troves released by the Clinton Library (which I actually visited on my drive from Louisville to Houston), we find this memo noting that the President should tone down his promise that people can keep the doctor of their choice under Hillarycare. Imagine that. Specifically, they objected to the line “You’ll pick the health plan and the doctor of your choice.” They asked “Can we get away with it … I am very worried about getting skewered for over-promising something here we know full well we won’t deliver.”


The line in question didn’t make it into the final speech. Here is the closest line I could find.

Our goal is health insurance everybody can depend on – comprehensive benefits that cover preventive care and prescription drugs, health premiums that don’t just explode when you get sick or you get older, the power – no matter how small your business is – to choose dependable insurance at the same competitive rates that governments and big business get today, one simple form for people who are sick, and most of all, the freedom to choose a plan and the right to choose your own doctor.

In my book talk, I discuss how the Obamacare supporters learned the lesson of Hillarycare–if you wanted to sell health care reform, you had to promise that people could keep their doctors. You didn’t have to keep that promise. But you had to lie until the law was passed, and people found out what is in it. I’m glad the Clinton Administration had a stronger preference for truthiness.