Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- No sooner had Hillary Clinton unveiled her latest plan for universal health-care coverage last week than the Club for Growth was denouncing it as another attempt at socialized medicine.

The title over the economic-growth advocacy group's statement said it all: "It's Baaaaack: HillaryCare Redux."

The New York senator and clear front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination is known for many things. But in the recent annals of federal-reform plans, she is best known as the architect of a fiendishly complicated, government-run health-care insurance system that was so unpopular the Democratic-run Congress refused to bring it up for a vote.

In her second try at wholesale reform, Clinton says she's learned from her past mistakes. But for all her centrist-sounding makeovers and political camouflage, she remains a big-government liberal to the core. Her latest plan would put the all-powerful federal bureaucracy in charge of our private health-care system, lock, stock and barrel.

The elements of an expanding government regulatory nightmare are all here: massive government subsidies, higher income taxes and employer mandates to provide employee health-care coverage no matter what the costs, a sweeping mandate that requires all Americans to buy insurance and a regulatory takeover of the health-care system from the states by the feds.

"With each passing day, the collectivist nightmare that is a Hillary Clinton presidency is crystallizing with frightening clarity," said Club for Growth president Pat Toomey.

The plan she has proposed provides scant details, preferring to paint her campaign proposal with a broad brush. The details, she said, would be worked out by Democratic legislators that rule over health-care policy, people like Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and New York Rep. Charlie Rangel.

But even at this early stage, her plan is riddled with ominous signs that HillaryCare II could be just as bad as the ill-fated plan of 1994 that many in her party could not stomach.

How much would it cost taxpayers? Clinton's price tag is $110 billion a year, but analysts say her plan will cost a lot more than that. A similar plan offered by Sen. John Kerry in his 2004 presidential campaign would have cost about $1.5 trillion over 10 years at a minimum.

Then there are the employer mandates in her plan with the heavy hand of the government forcing businesses to provide health-insurance plans for their workers. But forcing all small businesses to provide health-care insurance benefits for their employees would be a disaster for most of them.

Most small businesses operate precariously on the profit margin and government-mandated costs would bankrupt them.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.