Sen. Clinton Unveils Proposal To Reduce Health Care Costs
In a speech at George Washington University on Thursday, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) introduced a health care cost-cutting plan that she said could save $120 billion annually, the New York Times reports (Seelye, New York Times, 5/25).
According to the Washington Post, Clinton has "narrowed her focus to health-care costs, a complex subject but one that resonates among many middle-income Americans."
Clinton's plan includes seven measures to reduce costs and improve care in the U.S. health system. Under the plan, Clinton would launch a "prevention initiative" to reduce preventable diseases such as diabetes. The plan also calls for the implementation of electronic health records.
In addition, Clinton proposes to overhaul the method of care for the chronically ill, whose costs account for about two-thirds of all U.S. health expenditures. Her plan says it would seek to "end insurance discrimination" by requiring insurance plans to accept anyone regardless of health status (Kornblut, Washington Post, 5/25).
Under Clinton's proposal, insurers would be required to enroll any person who wishes to join, and they would be prohibited from charging higher rates to people with medical problems (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 5/24). The plan calls for legalizing the purchase of lower-cost prescription drugs from other nations and requiring Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. In addition, the plan calls for instituting "common sense" changes to the medical malpractice system (Washington Post, 5/25).
Another portion of the plan would establish a combination public and private "Best Practices Institute" to finance research comparing treatment efficacy. The organization would issue protocols based on its findings (CQ HealthBeat, 5/24). Clinton said the institute would determine whether new prescription drugs and technologies offer real benefits to patients compared with older therapies or whether they simply boost drug company profits (New York Times, 5/25).
Clinton's proposals announced Thursday were the first phase of what she said would be a three-part plan for correcting the nation's health care problems if she were elected president (CQ HealthBeat, 5/24). Clinton's advisers said that she will outline plans to improve quality of care and implement universal coverage in coming months (Washington Post, 5/25).
Clinton's proposal marks another foray into the health care debate "since she unsuccessfully tackled the issue as first lady in the early 1990s," the Chicago Tribune reports.
Clinton said, "Now, I've tangled with this issue before, and I've got the scars to show for it." She continued, "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" (Zuckman, Chicago Tribune, 5/25).
"In a system of universal coverage, insurance companies cannot as easily shift costs through cherry-picking and other means" of excluding older and sicker patients, Sen. Clinton said. She added, "That's how they profit: by avoiding insuring patients who will be expensive and then trying to avoid paying up once the insured patient actually needs treatment."
Clinton said, "The money we save from the waste we eliminate and the way we change how we care for people should be used to help finance coverage for the 45 million Americans who have no insurance" (Young, The Hill, 5/24).
Mohit Ghose, a spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Planssaid, "We agree that universal access is a goal of even our proposal," adding, "But it's a question of how we get there, and how we make sure we're providing access to as many people as possible while preserving the affordability" (New York Times, 5/25).
Presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) already has proposed a plan for insuring all U.S. residents by 2012, while Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), another contender for the Democratic nomination, is slated to announce his health care plan on Tuesday (Chicago Tribune, 5/25).