Clinton Health Care Plan Roll-out

I’m sitting in the basement of a hospital in Des Moines.  It’s not the morgue.  It’s a gymnasium and gray carpeting is covering the floor to protect the hardwood.  Almost navy blue curtains are hung on the walls, festooned with “American Health Choice Plan”banners.  There are a few pictures – a child, a family, a mother and child, a doctor or nurse in scrubs.  Two American flags.  That is the backdrop for Hillary Clinton’s health care reform plan announcement.

There are nearly 100 chairs on the floor, plus three small bleachers for the invited guests.  A husband and wife I know (who are a doctor and nurse) are seated in the chairs.  There appear to be other health care workers entering, as many have the kind of badges hanging off their clothing which are required for walking around a hospital. 

There are loads of cameras here, plus a good number of Clinton campaign folks.  Many of the campaign types are walking around with a cup of Starbucks in hand.  Gordon Fischer is in the house – he’s the former Iowa Democratic Party chairman.  I’m told he is still neutral.

tThe time is 10:30.  The event was to start.  The Clinton folks are still squeezing a few health care workers onto the bleachers.  All have on their scrubs.  This event, BTW, is being held in Broadlawns Hospital, the county/public hospital in Des Moines and is the only hospital in Des Moines which has a local chapter of the SEIU.

On another note, just received an email on my Blackberry announcing what we heard was coming sometime today: Senator Jeff Angelo, a Republican from Creston, will not seek re-election. 

It appears nearly 200 people are waiting for Clinton.  The fire marshall was here earlier and had the campaign clear out a row of chairs in the back between the audience and the media riser. 

10:48 a.m. – Mark Daley of the Clinton campaign asks the crowd to turn off their cell phones. 

They’re playing that “suddenly I see” song for some reason.  An unusual choice for this subject matter.  The song is cut off. 

10:52 a.m. – Hillary Clinton & pals introduced to the crowd.  The crowd rises and applauds as the trio enters the room.   

Lisa Bechtel, a nurse at Broadlawns, is introducing Clinton and giving a history.  Broadlawns is the largest publicly-funded hospital in Iowa and half of its patients are uninsured.  “Every day we see patients who ignore the signs of illness because of the cost of care,” she says. 

Now, Broadlawns’ nursing supervisor is being the mic – mentioning HRC’s 1993 effort to reform health care.

“I cannot think of a better place to discuss America’s health care crisis than a medical center that confronts it every day,” Clinton begins.

“…The statistics that you heard are just really a snapshot.  So many of the patients here come because they have needs that are not being met elsewhere and I hear their stories across our country….I want to start by telling you about Judy Rose (a Dubuque woman HRC met last month)…That is the tragedy…that feeling of being right on the edge that eats away not just at the 47 million who don’t have health care, but those who do….It’s what has led to so many people over so many years to ask me what are you going to do about health care for America?….It is long past time that this nation had an answer….Premiums have almost doubled, up almost 98 percent since 2000 and half of all personal bankruptcies in America are caused by medical bills…and if there was every a moment to do what America does best, to confront the challenges we face….We are and always have been a nation of opportunity….and of course, we believe in responsibility, but when families are struggling…we don’t leave them to fend for themselves.  Unfortunately, that’s what we’ve seen in the past 6 and a half years….a you’re on your own era….(invisible mantra)…Today as we strive for a new beginning to the 21st century, I believe every one – every man, woman and child – should have quality, affordable health care in America….In this economy, when people move jobs…their health care should move with them…..solving the health cre crisis is key to remaining competitive economically….We should do it because it is the right thing to do because we can no longer tolerate a system that shuts out one in six Americans….We can talk all we want about freedom & opportunity…but what does all that mean to a mother or a father who cannot take a sick child to the doctor…to a family filing for bankruptcy or losing their home because their medical bills are just too high…We spend…$2 trillion (per year on health care)…each year 18000 people die in America because they don’t have health care.  Let me repeat that.  Here in America people are dying because they…Special interests have had a field day….It is time for us to come together and start living up to our own values…and I intend to be the president who accomplishes that goal finally for our country.

As you may know, I’ve been fighting for health care for nearly 30 years, starting as first lady of Ark…I still have the scars to show (for 1993 effort)…We have all learned that America needs to provide health insurance for all Americans…A growing number of CEOs and union leaders are coming together…When Andy Stern stands with Lee Scott and they both demand health care reform…you know we’re ready for change…

“…The first rule of medicine is do no harm and we will do no harm to the parts of our system that are working…so that we will have health care for all and better health care for all….We need to address the concerns of those who have insurance and those who do not….

“…(mentions socialized medicine label Republicans are putting on her plan). ….Don’t let them fool us again.  This is not govt run.  There will be no new bureaucracies….but this plan expands personal choice and increases competition and keeps costs down….Fixing health care will require political will…and a solid national consensus for reform that will withstand attacks…

“…Change is just a word unless you have the strength and experience to make it happen….(promises to achieve health care reform in her first term as president)

“…While I was disappointed by what happened in 1994, I did not give up…(mentions SCHIPP)…(mentions vacs for children program)….following the horrific attacks of 9/11, I fought the EPA and the Bush Administration when they claimed the air at ground zero was safe…It wasn’t

“…Unfortunately, back in 93 and 94 too many of our opponents adopted a strategy that amounted to just say no…today Americans are impatient.  We’ve seen that doing nothing makes the problem worse…Now, we are spending 50 percent more per person than the next highesdt spending country in the world….We know we have to act and so if the question is that union leaders and employers can come together…if Democratic and Republican legislators and governors can work together on health care….then why can’t Washington?  I believe that together we can change Washington by sticking to our principles and reaching out to find common ground….I believe that it is America’s choice to do something about health care…and it should be of American’s choice to have the kind of health care that they want….I call my plan the American health choices plan…roughly 8 in 10 of the uninsured…come from working families.  Most are middle class and families earning between $25000 and $74000 are the fastest growing group of the uninsured….Employer-sponsored insurance is on the decline…this is at a time when people are changing jobs ore frequently than ever before….my plan takes all of these realities into account and addresses them head on….the product of hundreds of thousands of discussions….going forward…I’m going to keep reaching out, asking for ideas…

“…Now, here’s how this plan would work.  If you have private insurance that you like, nothing changes.  You can keep that insurance.  If you like the doctor you have, you can keep that doctor….If you don’thave health insurance or you don’t like the insurance you have…I’m calling it a health choices menu….

“…It is not a government take-over of health care….(mentios tax credits for insurance premiums)…You will never be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions or risk factors….Insurance companies will no longer be allowed to discriminate against high-risk patients….you’ll never again have to worry about finding affordable coverage….your coverage will be guaranteed.  If you pay the premiums and follow the rules….even if you lose your job….your coverage will be affordable (tax credits)…These new tax credits guarantee you’ll never pay more than a certain percentage of your income for health care….I will require insurance companies…to let you take your health care plan with you if you move from job to job or state to state..

“…Everyone…will have to step forward and do their part….(tax credit for companies that provide health care benefits to pensioners)…The tax credit I provide will help employers cover catastrophic costs above coverage…costs that can run hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single person…(temporary measure…available to states, too, for public employees)

“…(Small businesses)…We will not require small businesses to cover employees.  Instead, we will provide tax credits to ensure many of them do….this credit could be as high as 50 percent of premiums for firms with 50 or fewer employees….

“…Government will provide tax credits to ensure every single American can afford health insurance…(savings initiatives)….Much like drivers in most states are required to have car insurance….The sad reality is the uninsured don’t just struggle with costs…it’s a hidden tax…the high costs of ER visits that could have been avoided with a regular doctor’s appointment…The only way to guarantee affordable coverage for everyone is to cover everyone. 

“….(talking about dealing with drug companies)….We’re going to begin to reign that in (the high drug prices)….It also means changing the way insurance companies do business in America.  I will start by banning discrimination (anti-cherry-picking)….Insurance companies spend $50 billion a year on elaborate calculations and schemes to figure out how not to insure people…and every day they deny people coverage because of preexisting conditions or genetic testing…the vast majority of us could wind up being bad risks…and therefore we will become uninsurable….This legalized discrimination against the sickest of Americans is immoral….My plan puts an end to this…My plan also has a prevention intiative….to promote wellness as well as treat illness.

“…I think it’s time we focused on keeping people healthy, not just on treating them when they become sick…These proposals will not make me the insurance industries woman of the year, but I don’t think I’ve been in the running for that title since 1993….The idea is not to put the health insurance industry out of business, but to help it find a better way of making a living….

“…Now, how will I pay for this plan?…I won’t pay for it by pouring money into a broken system (or)…raising taxes….I’ll pay for part of it thru cost-savings (and rolling back part of Bush-era tax cuts)….and I’ll pay for some of it by limiting some of the tax breaks for people making over $250,000 a year….Announcing my plan today is just one step in a larger process.  In the coming months I will continue to reach out…because to truly reform health care in America, we need more than a plan.  We need a movement, a movement of people…who will not rest until they succeed.

“….(Telling Lisa Scott story)….We are a nation where people help those they’ve never even met, where we do understand we’re all in his together…..After 1994, when people asking me if I was going to give up on health care reform, I always had the same answer: why would I give up on America and the American people?….perhaps more than anyone else, I know just how hard this fight will be…I’m ready with you to write a new story, the story of how we finally put aside our differences and faced up to one of our largest challenges….We owe that to every family in America.  Today we have an opportunity to make history together.  As president, I will seize that opportunity and I hope all of you will join me.”

Speech over.  They’re playing that song again.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. The insurance and drug companies know how to stop Clinton
    I heard someone once say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Well, if that’s true, the Democrats must be nuts. At a time when 47 million Americans are uninsured, they’re considering nominating Hillary Clinton, the one candidate whose failed attempt set back efforts to get universal health care by at least a decade. With all due respect, Clinton’s experience doesn’t mean she’ll know how to manipulate the system better this time, it just means the insurance and drug companies, who have given her campaign millions, will know exactly how to stop her.

  2. We’ll now we get to see if Obama can make Clinton’s plan work. I am in favor of deductable assistance, or government subsidies for high risk individuals that need it the most. Another thing to point out is that unfortuntely in the US, insurance (especially health & life) is considered a luxury and many young people and working middle class with a choice of where to spend there money are opting for toys and entertainment rather than planning ahead. Hopefully that will change in the future. Great post and resource links…I’m your newest fan.