Matt Lauer Hits Hillary From the Left on Health Care

Delivering his best Michael Moore in "Sicko," impersonation NBC's Matt Lauer hit Hillary Clinton from the left on health care reform on Tuesday's "Today" show. Appearing in the first-half hour of "Today, Clinton was tagged repeatedly by Lauer as he worried that Hillary "watered down" her new health-care reform plan and feared Hillary had sold out to the insurance industry as he wondered: "Are you losing some leverage in asking these insurance companies to get on board and make tough choices?"

The following are all of Lauer's questions, on health care, to the Senator from New York and her responses as they occurred on the September 18 "Today" show:

Matt Lauer: "Senator Hillary Clinton is in Washington this morning. Senator, good morning to you."

[On screen headline: "Decision 2008, Can Clinton Fix Health Care This Time?"]

Hillary Clinton: "Good morning, Matt."

Lauer: "You talk a lot about the scars you have from 1993 and your, your efforts to reform health care back then. But this plan has only been out there for 24 hours and already critics are saying that this, in some ways, is the kind of plan that you would have rejected back in 1993. How do you respond to that?"

Clinton: "Well I think it's absolutely the case that I've learned a lot in the last 15 years. I think America has. I think we all understand that ignoring the problems don't make them better. We have more uninsured people. Millions more that are under insured. We are losing jobs because of the global competitive pressures on American business. And so I think it's important that you take a new assessment and that's what I've done. I've worked hard to, you know, listen to a lot of people, learn from what we tried to do and, and were not successful in doing before."

Lauer: "But in avoiding those battles, this time around Senator, have you watered down reform?"

Clinton: "No, I think what we've done is to come up with a practical approach that will actually move us and achieve universal coverage but without disruption. If you like your health insurance, you like your doctor, you like your hospital, nothing will change. But if you are among the 47 million uninsured or millions who think they should get a better deal for what they're paying, you will now have the same choices that members of Congress will have. And I think that's a significant move, based on what we think will work better."

Lauer, citing a liberal advocay group: "Let me read you something. Jamie Court, who is the president for the Foundation For Taxpayer and Consumer Rights told Newsweek magazine. He said, quote, 'There's nobody in this race with her knowledge to make health care available to every American at a cheaper cost, but it would take going after the insurance industry that's funding her candidacy.' In fact some of your competitors have said you've taken more money from the insurance industry than any other candidate. So the, the question is, is there a conflict looming on the horizon? Are you losing some leverage in asking these insurance companies to get on board and make tough choices?"

Clinton: "Well I don't think so because I believe in reality-based politics. And the fact is that my plan is very tough on requiring insurance companies to guarantee insurance to everyone. No exclusions for pre-existing conditions. They're going to have to change the way they do business. And I believe that they can and they will. We'll either work with them or we will make the case, based on all of the rest of us, that we cannot continue on the path we're on. So I think that this system, which builds on what works in America, but fixes what's wrong is exactly what is prescribed. And I'm thrilled to have the positive responses I've been receiving from so many groups. Physicians, nurses, hospitals-"

Lauer: "Right."

Clinton: "-the people who actually deliver the care. The insurance industry is not going to nominate me for Woman of the Year because I've always been tough on what I think are practices that undermine the quality and cost of health care. But I think that they will recognize that the time has come. We cannot continue on the path we're on."

Lauer: "Right."

Clinton: "We are undermining our health care system, and frankly undermining our health."

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.