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Hillary learned lesson from failed reform effort


It took a while, but Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., finally understands why her first attempt at comprehensive health care reform failed.

To pass legislation, Sen. Clinton said last month, all the major players--providers, employers and employees--have to be involved.

Why it may seem obvious, that basic political reality eluded Sen. Clinton when, as First Lady in 1993, she directed a health care reform task force established by her husband. That the effort ended in failure shouldn't have come as a surprise.

The plan, which was essentially a government takeover of the health care system, was developed behind closed doors and it was doomed because it was a rotten plan with no broad support.

At the time, though, Sen. Clinton blamed the plan's collapse on insurance industry lobbying--a factor, but only a minor one.

Sen. Clinton says she still bears scars from her last reform effort and she will do things differently this time. If so, she has to go no further than Massachusetts, where landmark comprehensive reform legislation has been enacted and where regulators, we think, are successfully implementing the law intended to achieve near-universal coverage.

The key to Massachusetts' success was that the reform drive was broad-based, where Democrats, Republicans, employers, insurers and providers openly worked together to reach a consensus.

That is a lesson Sen. Clinton finally appears to have learned and one we hope other federal lawmakers understand as well.