Like the media so far in this year’s campaign, the press in 1994 didn’t explain how ordinary people would be affected. In fact, the press couldn’t even agree on how many people would be covered because Cooper himself gave conflicting numbers. The Palm Beach Post reported that Cooper predicted his plan would cover nearly as many of the uninsured as Clinton’s plan, which was 100 percent. The Washington Post quoted him as saying that 60 percent would be covered, and the Los Angeles Times said that by his own estimate 20 percent of the uninsured would not be covered—80 percent would be. Sounds sort of like Clinton and Obama sparring over whose plan is more universal, doesn’t it?

Finally, this year, according to Brooks, Cooper argues that Clinton’s more coercive approach to getting people covered will once again be a political death knell. Says Brooks, Cooper believes “it’s smarter to begin by offering people affordable access to coverage and evolve from there.” Perhaps he means cheap policies that don’t cover much, like the one Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield sold in Ohio last fall. It came with deductibles ranging from $4000 to $20,000 and $8000 to $40,000 for families who use out-of-network doctors. The policy covered only two doctor visits a year. It’s those details we’d like to hear about as the campaign unfolds. But the lesson from “Clinton lite” could mean we won’t be getting many. If we forget the past, we may be condemned to repeating it.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.