Clinton: Ready To Deal On Health Care

It was a bully-pulpit speech in the best tradition of Ronald Reagan. President Clinton's State of the Union address told the vast middle of the American public what it wanted to hear about crime, welfare, family stability, and personal responsibility.

By moving to the center, he stole the Republicans' thunder on social issues. By spotlighting local heroes, such as a New York City policeman, he took a page from Reagan's script on dramatic TV presentation.

But the most important device Clinton borrowed from Reagan came at the heart of his speech. Just as Reagan laid out one or two very clear markers for his tax-cut package of 1981 and told Congress to fill in the details, so too did Clinton put down one simple goal for his health-care reform proposal.

After months of pushing a complex, government-dominated medical plan, Clinton sent a clear signal to Congress: The President's marker is universal access to health insurance for all Americans. Everything else is up for negotiation, including the time frame for phasing in coverage.

This is terrific news. The big cloud on the horizon--a mandate-heavy, bureaucratic health-care plan that might crush the economy--has been lifted. President Clinton is prepared to declare victory as soon as lawmakers come up with a reasonable, market-oriented program that eventually covers everyone. The ball is in their court now.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.