Yes, why not?
On Health Care, We?ll Have What Congress Is Having - The New YorkerIn the fall of 1994, the Clinton Administration’s much debated comprehensive, and complicated, health-insurance bill—known derisively as Hillarycare—died quietly on Capitol Hill. It was a moment that, the Princeton sociologist Paul Starr later argued, would “go down as one of the great lost political opportunities in American history.” But, before the end, talk of another approach kept bubbling up: to allow those Americans who couldn’t get insurance elsewhere to buy a policy that was just as good, and inexpensive, as what members of Congress got. When Senator Edward M. Kennedy, of Massachusetts, said that Americans should get “exactly what we have,” he meant the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
The F.E.H.B.P., as it’s known, was started in 1959, a few years before Medicare, and was meant to cover some nine million government employees—civil-service workers, the courts, the Post Office, members of Congress, and more. It wasn’t a single plan but, rather, as a Times story put it, “a supermarket offering 300 private health plans.” (Even the right-learning Heritage Foundation called it “a showcase of consumer choice and free-market competition.”) One may get a sense of its scope and inclusiveness—its supermarket-ness—in the way that the Office of Personnel Management, which administers the program, explains it to federal employees. Much of the program—for instance, the idea that no one can be refused, or charged more, for a preëxisting condition, or that dependents under twenty-six are covered—will sound familiar to anyone conversant with the most attractive parts of the Affordable Care Act.
In the summer of 1994, when the Clinton Administration struggled to win approval for its proposal, there were some signs of actual good will in Congress, along with the predictable determination to dynamite the whole idea. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat, wanted any insurer who sold policies to federal workers to offer the same thing to “civilians,” at a reasonable price. Bob Dole, a Kansas Republican and the Minority Leader, favored a scheme in which self-employed individuals and small businesses (employers of up to fifty workers) could buy the federal policy “at the same premium price.”