FIG1 A decade after her universal
coverage proposal failed and midway through her six-year term as a New York
senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton is speaking out on health care issues and
promoting her ideas for reform.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: "We spend billions of dollars a year
for medical research at NIH to produce this information, but it is worthless
unless the doctor can retrieve it when needed."
Clinton reiterated her concern for the growing number of uninsured
Americans at the first Washington, D.C., chapter meeting of the Association of
Health Care Journalists last month. More than 40 million Americans are
uninsured, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
"If Kerry wins the presidential election in November, and the
Democrats take back the Senate, we can make incremental reforms that will move
us closer to an affordable, accessible health care system."
In contrast to a decade ago, Clinton did not recommend universal coverage
or any other type of remedy for the uninsured; instead, she said that she was
still in the diagnostic stage on those issues.
Clinton, responding to reporters' questions, criticized President Bush's
Medicare drug prescription plan for giving subsidies to pharmacy benefit
managers and the pharmaceutical industry for spending too much of its revenue
on marketing and too little on research.
She supports efforts to prevent obesity, especially in children. "I
favor reinstituting physical education in public schools and removing
fast-food franchises that contribute to high glucose levels in children and
Clinton emphasized the need for strong legislation to prohibit health
insurers and employers from discriminating against people based on their
"The completion of the Human Genome Project carries unique
opportunities and risks. In the next decade, a DNA chip will store an
individual's genetic information including predispositions to
illnesses," Clinton said.
The Senate passed the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act of 2003 last October. S
1053 prohibits health insurance companies and employers from using genetic
information or a request for genetic services to discriminate against an
Despite having 240 co-sponsors last month, the House companion bill (HR
1910) has languished in the House Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations
since last year.
Clinton discussed her bill, which was introduced last October, the Health
Information for Quality Improvement Act (S 2003).
"Clinical decision tools, like handheld computers, exist that would
allow doctors to pull up the latest research information immediately at the
patient's bedside. We spend billions of dollars a year for medical research at
NIH to produce this information, but it is worthless unless the doctor can
retrieve it when needed," Clinton said.
Her legislation calls for a new office to create a national health
information infrastructure. A new medical safety initiative would collect data
on whether the increased use of information technology improves and advances
medical care. The bill also calls for protecting privacy and security of
health information and prohibits health insurers from denying or preventing
individuals with serious illnesses from participating in approved clinical
trials. The bill also requires
"Despite numerous studies showing the advantages of information
technology [IT] systems, some hospitals and physicians' offices are
understandably wary of spending millions of dollars on systems that may not
talk to other systems or become obsolete in a few years," Clinton
She continued, "Federal leadership is needed to encourage the
adoption of health care information technology that promotes compatible
operating systems, assures affordability, and reduces barriers to IT
Meanwhile, HHS recently announced several IT initiatives (see
page 7) to jumpstart the
creation of a national electronic medical records system. Clinton said she
supports the Bush administration's IT efforts and has asked the president to
support her legislation.
The Health Information for Quality Improvement Act can be accessed
by searching on the bill number, S 2003. ▪