Sen. Hillary Clinton Answers Iowans; Questions

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., participated in "Good Morning America's" Town Hall in Iowa this morning with anchor Robin Roberts. She took questions from Iowans and people from across the country on issues including health care and Iraq. Between now and Election Day 2008, there will be more Town Hall meetings with some of the major candidates running for President.

The War in Iraq

Clinton began the session by answering questions on the Iraq War.

Roberts: Today, the Senate is set to debate a measure that would call for withdrawing America's combat troops from Iraq. And, in a historic vote, the House of Representatives Friday passed a bill that called for American troops to be out of Iraq by the end of the summer 2008. You've said that if this president doesn't end the war, if you are president you will. Would you sign such a bill if you were president?

Clinton: Yes, I'm hoping that we can get it passed in the Senate. … We're working very hard to persuade our Republican colleagues to start this path toward getting out of Iraq. … Perhaps [the president will] work with us to extricate us from Iraq. … If I were president, I would certainly work with Congress to do that.

Roberts: Last night on "60 Minutes," Sen. John Edwards said he would be able to focus on his job in the White House, despite the recent diagnosis of his wife, Elizabeth, with terminal cancer. Is it possible?

Clinton: I think our thoughts and prayers are with Elizabeth. … She's an incredibly strong woman. … Her family is standing with her. … I think [it's best to] just let the Edwards decide how to best handle this crisis. … I'm not going to substitute my judgment for theirs. … They have to face this together. … It is incredibly personal.

Iowans and Health Care

Roberts: You've joined us today to talk about health care. You've said you still have the scars from your 1993 health-care efforts. There's a lot of deja vu. In fact, you addressed a group of health-care workers this weekend that you talked to back in 1993. Fourteen years later, the problems are still there. There's someone in the audience who'd like to ask you a question about how things will be different this time around, Dr. Steve Eckstat.

Steve Eckstat: Sen. Clinton, I was part of your 1993 Health Care Task Force. Obviously we weren't very successful at that time, so as president would you try to create a plan for universal health coverage again?

Clinton: I certainly would. It's one of the reasons I'm running for president. … I think we're in a better position to do that today than we were in '93 or '94. … It's hard to ignore the fact that nearly 47 million people don't have insurance. But also because the people who have insurance find that insurance companies deny what you need.

[Also] It's really hard for small businesses to compete in the economy … if they have to compete with the cost of health care.

We spend more money than anyone in the world [on health care] by a very big number. … For all those reasons I believe the American people will make this an issue in the campaign. … I'm very excited about this, and I know that we can do this.

Many of the features that any of our health-care plans will have are going to be the same because there are only a couple ways that we can get to universal health coverage. … We can build on the current employment situation. … The other big way of doing it … is to move towards a system that would have Medicare for everybody. … A kind of single-payer system.

I think we have to have a uniquely American solution to health care because we're a different kind of country than anybody else.

I think we will move toward requiring employers to participate the way Massachusetts does or the way California is considering. … And if you don't insure your employees you're going to have to pay some kind of per-employee amount so that everybody can be given insurance.

During this campaign I want the ideas that people have. I want to hear from you that have different perspectives about what can work.

We don't have informational technology in health care the way we need to. … I'm fighting to get electronic medical records for every American. The reason is it'll save money, time, avoid duplication.

We're going to have universal health care when I'm president. There's no doubt about that. We're going to get it done.

Kathy Byars: Why do members of Congress get the Mercedes of insurance plans and pension plans while many of their constituents are just trying to pay for the basic necessities?

Clinton: I believe that one of the ways we can get health care for everyone is to open up the federal plan that's available to members of Congress … to everybody. That would be one way that we could say to you that you have the same right as anybody in Congress

I think it is past time for the Congress to do for everybody else what we do for ourselves.

I believe we can no longer continue with Cadillac policies for people in Congress unless we give other people in America the same policies.

B.J. and Donny Jackson: How are you going to make sure that soldiers get the care they need and deserve from the VA [Department of Veterans Affairs]?

Clinton: I think we should have guaranteed mandatory funding for the VA. I don't think that the VA should be fighting every year to get enough money to take care of the people that took care of us. … I also think we have to do more to ensure the outpatient care our veterans get is as good as the acute care that they get.

What happens is that once the operation is over and the young man or young woman needs to be taken care of going forward … we drop the ball.

We've got to improve the quality and provide more funding, and let's not forget that a lot of our veterans are coming back with traumatic brain injury. … We're going to have to take care of them for a long time.

Tiffany Sumuel, via e-mail: One of the most common arguments against nationalized health care is that the quality of care and research will be negatively impacted. If health care is nationalized, what will be done to ensure and/or improve the quality of care?

Clinton: Well, I want to make clear that there is a difference between having a health-care system that provides quality affordable health care to every American and having a national health system where there's only one source of care.

There's a lot of misinformation and, frankly, a lot of scare tactics about what universal health care would mean. … That's why I started by saying that we have to reduce costs and improve quality no matter what we do.

What I'm arguing is that we need to improve quality and reduce costs. And one of the first ways to do that is to create electronic medical records. … We need to have that in private health care, every doctor's office, every hospital.

I'd like to see us get back to funding the NIH [National Institutes of Health]. Under the Bush administration, we began to cut NIH.

Angelica Jones, via Be Seen, Be Heard video submission: Hello Sen. Clinton, my name is Angelica Jones, and I'm the executive vice president of the association of students at Cal State University San Bernardino. Are there any incentives for students in your health-care plan?

Clinton: How can students be covered? I think a couple of different ways. … I think as long as you're a dependent and especially if you have any health problems, your family should be able to keep you on their policy.

Many young people, when they start to work, go to work for employers who don't provide health insurance, and many young people don't think they need it because they're healthy. … But you're not immune to accidents or illnesses.

I think if we had choices for health care plans … a lot of healthy young 20-somethings would say, 'I'm healthy. I'm going to get the minimal benefits.' … But it's really important everybody be insured.

I think we can get the costs down for young people, and I would like to do that because I would like to provide that option to them.