Exclusive: Hillary Clinton Answers Your E-Mails

ByABC News via GMA logo
March 27, 2007, 7:25 AM

— -- ABCNEWS.com readers submitted health care questions for Senator Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. Here, the White House hopeful and former first lady responds to your videos and e-mails on universal coverage, Head Start, and funding for VA hospitals and services. Between now and Election Day 2008, "Good Morning America" and ABCNEWS.com will host more Town Hall meetings with some of the major candidates running for President.

Tiffany Sumuel, Los Angeles, Calif.: How will we pay for universal coverage? Considering the current financial position of the country and the expected financial impact of the impending rash of baby boomer retirements, I'd like to know how, if elected, you intend to balance the country's current and future obligations in addition to implementing universal health coverage?

Clinton: I'm going to pass universal health care that lowers costs for Americans. Families and businesses are drowning in skyrocketing health care premiums. There's a lot of wasted money in our health care system.

Nationally, we spend $1.9 trillion -- more than any other country in the world -- and in 10 years we are projected to spend almost $4 trillion.

I believe we can spend that money more efficiently and still cover our nation's uninsured. And I believe we can invest more wisely and get better outcomes than we are currently. As the world's highest investor in health care (at nearly 16 percent of our gross domestic product), we can do better than ranking 31st in the world in terms of life expectancy. So, yes, to get to where we need to be, we will need some upfront investments, but I am confident that simplifying our system and making it more accountable will achieve just the type of savings we need to achieve real progress. And if we do, I am absolutely confident we will be able modernize our health system, make it more efficient and responsive to the patient, achieve public and private savings, and cover all Americans.

Kimberly Ochs, Minneapolis, Minn.: In our country, health care is not a right but a privilege. Education, however, is a right, and research has shown a strong correlation between health and educational achievement. Would your plan for reform include cooperation and coordination between health care and education? For example, in some countries, eye exams are part of the public school kindergarten curriculum.

Clinton: I strongly support the idea of better coordination and cooperation between our education and health care systems as a strategy for expanding access to health care for children.

One example where coordination is working well is the Head Start program, which I have long supported and worked to expand.

Head Start provides comprehensive services for low income children and their families. Children enrolled in Head Start receive medical, dental, vision screenings, nutrition and the social-emotional and preliteracy and premathematics lessons that will help them get ready for kindergarten. And we have seen that that array of comprehensive services has a great impact on children.

In addition, legislation I recently introduced to expand health insurance for children encourages states to use schools to reach out to eligible children and enroll them in the State Children's Health Insurance Program. So, I really do support programs that provide incentives to schools and health care providers to make health care services more readily available in schools, and I agree with you that this type of cooperation could make a real difference in improving educational achievement.

Beth Cooper, South Beach, S.C.: I would like to know why Americans can't have a health care plan such as Canada has. And if you become president, could you come up with a better health care plan that is for the lower income people who make too much to qualify for Medicaid (the program for the working poor)?

Clinton: My goal is to have a health care system that provides quality, affordable care to every American. On way to achieve this goal is to have a national health care system where there is only one source of care and the government runs it.

That is what they have in Canada, and it is called a single-payer system. Another way to achieve universal coverage is to build on the employer-based system.

Many people think building on the employer system is the most practical way to achieve universal health care because a lot of people are satisfied with the health care they have, they just don't like the high cost. I think we have to have a uniquely American solution to health care because America is a unique country.

We are bigger and more diverse than other countries. Here, people like to have a choice; they want to know that they can pick their doctor and the hospital they go to. That is why I think we will move toward a system that builds on what we have now, and encourages everyone, including employers, to contribute their fair share, the way Massachusetts does and California is considering. But we're also going to lower the cost of health care. I want to hear from you about your ideas on health care. I want to hear from you who have different perspectives about what you think will work.