By Nathan Mayberg
HARRIS January 16, 2004 Hillary Clinton had a lot to say in her visit to the Catskill Regional Medical Center on Tuesday.
"The aging of Baby Boomers will collapse the health care system. . . . Were back into deficits. We cant pay for it, the U.S. Senator remarked. Three years ago, we had control over our financial destiny. Young people did not put us in a $500 billion deficit. It is not fair to them."
Senator Clinton came to talk about a bill she is proposing, which would allow hospitals and doctors to share information more easily. This proposal would cut time and money spent on paperwork by hospitals and doctors, according to Clinton.
For every hour a doctor spends on care, they spend an hour and a half on paperwork, in a statistic Clinton obtained from the American Heart Association.
Administrative costs, she said, consume one quarter of hospitals dollars. That money, in her view, could be better spent on doctors, nurses, equipment, and research.
Clintons bill would create a phone and e-mail system where patients could communicate with their doctors more efficiently.
The bill would set up a single, secure computer system which would allow hospitals and doctors to share information on patients.
The Senator also took issue with the latest health care bill signed by President George Bush, which she contends will raise overall costs for the consumer.
A lot of people in retirement-based health care and wraparound policies will lose prescription drug coverage as a result of the bill, in the lawmakers words.
The new law, in her view, makes no effort to control the costs of drugs. She said the bill was made with the interests of health insurance companies in mind.
Clinton also voiced the concerns of people who travel to Canada to buy prescription drugs that are made by American companies, but sold cheaper across the border.
"They are trying to criminalize those that go over the border," she said.
There was still hope, she said, because the bill does not take effect until 2006. Clinton hopes to alter the contents of the legislation.
Clinton laid blame on New York State government for shifting the Medicaid burden onto the counties. Sullivan County Manager Dan Briggs, who was in attendance, stated that the county spends 53 percent of its tax levy on Medicaid. Clinton added that there are some counties where the entire tax levy cannot pay for the Medicaid bill.
New York does offer some of the most extensive health care services in the country, said Clinton.
"Some states, like Texas, dont even try," she said, cut off by resounding laughter and applause to the obvious stab at the Presidents home state.
A half a trillion dollars is spent on health care every year in this country, and Clinton wants more of it spent on doctors clinical research. The number of Americans who have no health insurance or are underinsured is going up, said New Yorks junior Senator.
Clinton condemned the insurance companies for defeating her 1993 health care bill. The bill, she said, would have helped eliminate the redundancy and duplication in the health care payment system and cut down costs.
"The insurance companies scared people into thinking they wouldnt be able to choose their own doctor. Well, now that is what has happened through the companies."
The rising cost of health care has caused many companies to downsize and eliminate health benefits, according to the Senator.
"The government does not take uninsured Americans seriously, she added.
Senator Clinton also answered questions on foreign policy, saying she was disturbed by former Secretary of the Treasury Paul ONeils revelations that the administration was planning to attack Iraq from the beginning of its term.
On the other hand, she said she believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which posed a threat.
On the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by North Korea, she responded, "I believe North Korea poses the most immediate threat. They have the means to deliver those [nuclear] weapons through missile technology. Their missiles can hit us. We need bilateral and multilateral negotiations, instead of the one-track system of the Bush administration."
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther arranged for Clintons appearance, and Gunther thanked her for the support she gave on her own campaign.
On the issue of health care in Sullivan County, Gunther a longtime nurse at CRMCs Harris division promised to make sure that "we are well funded this year."
Afterwards, Gunther, Clinton and a host of county dignitaries and Democratic Party supporters gathered at Mr. Willys in Monticello for a $50/head fundraiser for the Senator.