Web gets wonky on HillaryCare

It's hard to tell who was happier this week: the cable news networks to have O.J. back; or conservative bloggers to have a Hillary Clinton health care plan to shoot at again.

Mark at Redstate takes aim at Sen. Clinton's statement that "Here in America people are dying because they couldn't get the care they needed when they were sick." Because federal law prohibits hospitals from dumping emergency room patients before they are stabilized, he concludes that "no one dies while waiting to receive health care because of their ability to pay. ... Sen. Clinton has poisoned the debate against her position by this descent into hyperbole."

Alas for Mark, only a few hours passed before one of his commenters performed a two-second search and linked to the Institute of Medicine's 2003 study finding that 18,000 uninsured adults die each year in the United States because they don't get proper medical care.

Oops. Damn Google.

KnightHawk at PoliPundit urges "the Health Insurance Association of America to start thinking about updating the Harry and Louise ads" used to derail President Bill Clinton's health reform proposal in 1994. But Robert Stein at the Moderate Voice cleverly imagines Harry and Louise are unavailable for duty. Harry, it seems, has died of undiagnosed coronary disease after losing his job, and their health insurance, and Louise is now enrolled, albeit warily, in government-run health care, better known as Medicare.

While ideologues on the right fume about Clinton's plan as "socialized medicine," those on the left are upset because it isn't, well, socialized medicine.

"Is there anybody here who believes that this plan wasn't conceived and dictated to Senator Clinton by passels of high-end lobbyists for the insurance industry?" TRex asks at firedoglake. Blogging at the Huffington Post, Rose Ann DeMoro, another single-payer dead-ender, writes that "Throwing more Americans under the wheels of the insurance industry will not solve this problem any more than criminalizing the uninsured is humane or sound health policy."

Fortunately the Net sometimes gives off light as well as heat, and on this wonkiest of all policy issues, expert bloggers are out in force with useful analysis.

Jonathan Cohn at TNR Online summarizes the Clinton plan and catches an important difference between her proposals and those of rivals John Edwards and Barack Obama: She leaves small business off the hook. Erza Klein at American Prospect underlines Clinton's debt to John Edwards' equally bold plan. Louise Norris at Colorado Health Insurance Insider argues the importance of the plan's requirement that everyone have insurance.

Ian Welsh at the Agonist asks a series of tough questions and notes a little-discussed provision that helps companies like the automakers that have huge, unfunded "legacy" health care costs for retirees. And Ronald Bailey at Reason Online faults Clinton for not stepping up to convert health insurance from a faltering employer-based system to "a private consumer-driven system."

Even as they tussle over policy, many bloggers, even Republicans and nonpartisans, think Clinton's plan may get the politics right. "It is brilliant," John Podhoretz writes at The Corner. "She gets to claim she will provide universal health insurance while seeming to criticize implicitly the Rube Goldberg scheme with which she was formerly associated — a sensational two-fer."

And, oddly, no candidate gets hit harder than Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who doesn't have to promise health reform, because he's actually done it. "Ask him just how her plan differs from the one he signed into law in Massachusetts," suggests industry consultant Robert Laszewski at Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review. "I do health plan analysis for a living and it looks to me like they are kissin' cousins."

But Romney is running away from his signal achievement. "He deserves credit as a national leader here," Marc Ambinder writes at TheAtlantic, "but he seems too afraid that Republicans will punish him if he accepts that mantle." Poor Mitt, fated by birth to run as a governor in a party that's not sure it believes in governing.