Gov. Rick Perry may face an old political ghost from his tenure as Texas Agriculture Commisioner -- a complimentary letter he wrote in 1993 to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton to urge her to consider the needs of rural residents as she drafted what would later be derided as "Hillarycare."
In the letter, dated April 6, 1993, Perry wrote to Clinton, “I think your efforts in trying to reform the nation’s health care system are most commendable."
He went on to request that the health-care task force consider the unique needs of "farmers, ranchers, and agriculture workers, and other members of rural communities."
Perry campaign strategist Dave Carney told The Daily Caller, which first reported on the letter yesterday, that Perry would not have known the specifics of the policy at the time. "The letter was at the onset of her efforts before she proposed anything," he said. "No one could have imagined the horrible monstrosity she cooked up, in fact, not to be outdone until 'ObamaCare' years later."
It is true that the precise details of the plan were unclear at the time and the process of hashing out the policy was (now infamously) opaque. But some of the broad goals of the legislation were being reported at the same time Perry was penning praise to Clinton.
According to a Los Angles Times report from April 5, 1993, the plan was designed to, in part:
* Guarantee that a uniform package of basic benefits will be available to everyone, although not all the uninsured will get this coverage right away. Among the basic benefits would be hospital and doctor services, including mental health care, and some prescription drug coverage.
* Create a standardized insurance form and bar insurers from refusing to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions, in order to enable people to change jobs-and insurers-without fear of losing coverage.
* Enact tort reforms to reduce medical malpractice litigation.
* Impose a price freeze on private-sector medical providers while the system of cooperatives is phased in, a process that could take three to five years.
* Phase in a requirement for employers to provide workers with health insurance, with government subsidies to help the smaller businesses.
Several of those objectives, including the mandate that employers provide health care for workers and the guarantee of universal benefits to everyone regardless of pre-existing conditions, are now objectionable to conservatives like Perry, who has said he wants to use an executive order to dismantle "Obamacare."
Asked if Perry would have considered "commendable" those goals, which were public at the time that Perry praised Clinton, Carney told NBC News that while "insiders" were speculating about the details, Perry was simply raising concerns about an important constituency.
"The letter is very clear," Carney wrote via email. "They were trying to reform health care and no one knew how awful the final product would become. Insiders may have speculated on what might come out of the process. Rural voices and concerns deserved to be included."
NBC's Marcie Rickun contributed to this report.