At the start of 1993, the newly-elected President Bill Clinton appointed his wife, Hillary, as head of his Task Force on Health Care Reform.
Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the lone socialist in Congress, advocated a single-payer health insurance system—basically, Medicare for everyone, as in Canada.
In February, Sanders requested a meeting with Hillary, “to bring in two Harvard Medical School physicians who have written on the Canadian system,” according to the records of the administration’s task force. Those physicians were Stephanie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, leading advocates for single-payer health care.
They got their meeting at the White House that month, and the two doctors laid out the case for single-payer to the first lady.
“She said, ‘You make a convincing case, but is there any force on the face of the earth that could counter the hundreds of millions of the dollars the insurance industry would spend fighting that?’” recalled Himmelstein.
“And I said, “How about the president of the United States actually leading the American people?’ and she said, ‘Tell me something real.’ ”
Political reporter Ben Schreckinger said Sanders got the brush-off, the Clinton administration introduced a complicated plan limited to altering the existing health insurance system, the health insurance industry fought it anyhow, and the plan went down to defeat.
When Bernie Sanders met Hillary Clinton by Ben Schreckinger for Politico.