‘Can we get away with it?’

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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President Barack Obama was not the first one to try out the line about how people can keep their health insurance if they liked it.

In 1994, when the Clinton administration was attempting to push through its own attempt at a healthcare overhaul, speechwriters initially had President Bill Clinton making a similar remark at that year’s State of the Union address, according to new files released from the Clinton archive on Friday.

“We have a line on p. 10 that says “You’ll pick the health plan and the doctor of your choice.” This sounds great and I know that it’s just what people want to hear. But can we get away with it?” wrote someone named Todd, whose last name was unspecified, in a memo to Bob Boorstin, the president’s national security speechwriter, and David — whose last name is also unspecified but who is presumably David Shipley, another speechwriter for Clinton.

Clinton Files

“Isn’t the whole thrust of our health plan to steer people toward cheaper, HMO-style providers? It’s one thing to say we’ll preserve your option so pick the doctor of your choice (recognizing that this will cost more), it’s quite another to appear to promise the nation that everyone will get to pick the doctor of his or her choice,” Todd wrote. “And that’s exactly what this line does.”

“I am very worried about getting skewered for over-promising here on something we know full well we won’t deliver.

The line did not make it into the final speech.

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