Mandates or No Mandates, the Health Care Push Is Coming

If you've watched any of the debates for the Democratic presidential candidates, received any of the campaigns' direct mail, or read any of Paul Krugman's 712 columns on the subject, you know there's one key difference between the healthcare plans presented by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama: mandates.

Putting aside who has the better policy, it's good to know that either one of them isn't going to push for universal coverage on their own. Jonathan Cohn has the story.


Today the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced it would be launching a $75 million election-year campaign on behalf of universal coverage. According to the union's press release, which doesn't seem to be available online, the effort will feature paid advertising to "draw sharp distinctions between the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees' approach to health care, and what those differences will mean to working families." But it's not just a bunch of television and magazine spots the union has in mind. They're also planning to finance what sounds like a pretty substantial ground effort, including a rolling publicity tour to stage events across the country and an outreach effort designed to collect stories of hardship -- which, surely, will help spread the word about reforms, as well.
I honestly don't know whether $75 million counts as a lot of money for this sort of thing. But, according to this old 60 Minutes story, the entire drug industry spent about $100 million on campaign contributions and lobbying during the fight over the Medicare drug benefit a few years ago. So $75 million certainly sounds like a lot.
It does, indeed. Moreover, unlike in '93 and '94, when unions were slow to defend the administration against the insurance and pharmaceutical companies -- it came shortly after the fight over NAFTA -- this time around, advocates of universal coverage are on the same page, they're getting started early, and they're intent on establishing an electoral mandate.

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