Hillary Clinton’s First Senate Speech Focuses on Health
In her first speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) proposed expanding the CHIP program and urged President Bush to support the McCain-Kennedy Patient Protection Act (S 283), the Albany Times Union reports. After acknowledging her "failed push" during 1993 and 1994 to expand insurance coverage for all Americans, Clinton said she "learned some valuable lessons about ... taking small steps to get a big job done." Under her CHIP program expansion proposal, eligibility would be increased to include parents and children with incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level. A family of four could earn up to $51,150 per year and qualify for coverage (Jakes, Albany Times Union, 2/14).
Clinton said this expansion would allow about five million additional children to enroll. Besides CHIP expansion, Clinton also proposed the creation of a new national health insurance program for low-income families that is modeled after a two-year-old New York program, but she did not offer any details in her speech. During Clinton's Senate campaign, her aides said such a program would cover about six million "low-wage" earning individuals at a cost of $60 billion over ten years (Hernandez, New York Times, 2/14). Clinton said, "We must them find affordable quality health care. Health care should not be a luxury. It should be a fact of life for Americans everywhere" (McCaffrey, AP/Washington Post, 2/13). Regarding patients' rights legislation, Clinton "chide[d]" President Bush for not supporting the McCain-Kennedy legislation. She said, "I believe President Bush can transform the rhetoric of leadership into the reality of accomplishment. Say the word, President Bush, and we can make this bill a law." She added, "In this session of Congress we will need to focus on many aspects of health care: medical privacy, Medicaid funding, genetic discrimination, providing prescription drug coverage for our seniors and long term care for our families" (Bazinet, New York Daily News, 2/14).