Clinton wades again into reforming health care

May 25, 2007|By Jill Zuckman | Jill Zuckman,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON -- For Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the problems of the U.S. health care system have been a political danger zone since she unsuccessfully tackled the issue as first lady in the early 1990s.

Health insurers and conservatives vilified Clinton for her efforts then, and Congress reacted coolly to her presentation of a universal health care plan as a fait accompli after months of secret meetings.

Yesterday, as a candidate for president, the New York Democrat returned to the complicated and contentious topic, acknowledging mistakes and promising that she had learned from them.

"Now, I've tangled with this issue before, and I've got the scars to show for it," Clinton told an auditorium packed with medical students and doctors at George Washington University. "But I learned some valuable lessons from that experience.

"One is that we can't achieve reform without the participation and commitment of health care providers, employers, employees and other citizens who pay for, depend upon and actually deliver health care services."

Clinton delivered a proposal yesterday focused on reining in health care costs. Two other proposals are in the offing - one to improve the quality of health care and the other to insure all Americans.

Clinton delivered a flurry of facts and figures to back up her contention that health care costs are out of control: premiums have almost doubled since 2000; the nation spends 16 percent of its gross domestic product on health care; 30 percent of the cost increase is related to the doubling of obesity among adults during the past two decades; and the nation's administrative costs are the highest in the world.

"If we spend so much, why does the World Health Organization rank the United States 31st in life expectancy and 40th in child mortality, worse than Cuba and Croatia?" she asked.

As president, Clinton said, she would focus on prevention, keeping people well rather than treating them later when they are sick and the cost of treatment is more expensive.

"Under my reforms, all Americans will have access to comprehensive preventive care, which will save money in the long run," she said.

Jill Zuckman writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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