When Hillary Clinton was working on health care reform in 1993, she visited a children’s hospital in Cleveland and met with parents whose children were uninsurable, mostly because of congenital or chronic conditions.
At Geisinger’s National Healthcare Symposium on Thursday in Danville, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee recalled a father of two daughters — both had cystic fibrosis.
The father told her that he was a businessman who could afford insurance but couldn’t find anyone to sell it to him, said Clinton, the symposium’s keynote speaker.
The man had been told by an insurance company representative that they “don’t insure burning buildings,” Clinton said.
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She said it was an “overwhelming” experience.
As first lady, Clinton played a key role in pushing for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was created in 1997 to provide low-cost health insurance for millions of kids.
It was most recently reauthorized in 2015 and due to be renewed by the U.S. Congress by Sept. 30 — but it hasn’t been yet.
“This is the first time where we’re really playing roulette with these kids and their families,” she said.
The conversation about health care happening now in the United States, Clinton said, isn’t informed by “evidence, fact, reason or reality.”
She discussed the movement to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The 2010 health care law is one of President Barack Obama’s signature accomplishments.
“The politics of this are toxic — they’re unhealthy and they are hurting our effort to really try to move forward in a way that better rationalizes the costs and delivery systems,” she said.
And what scares her the most about health care’s future?
“We’re going to have even more inequality in health care. We are going to have more people who are left out of the kind of medical home and ongoing care that they need,” Clinton said. “We’re going to have children with serious health problems not get the care they need early enough to be able to have a more successful future.”
She stressed the importance of a universal health care system, though she said that it doesn’t necessarily have to be single payer.
The only way to move forward was with the Affordable Care Act, which was “clearly” a compromise, she said.
Clinton suggested making improvements rather than trying to “blow up the whole system” to get single payer.
The United States is at a turning point in health care, she said. Leaders in academic medicine, clinical practice and research are needed to stand up and say that there are paths forward and the country needs to be pursuing them.
Geisinger President and CEO David Feinberg, who served as moderator during Clinton’s session, asked her questions ranging in topic from former President Bill Clinton’s plant-based diet to the opioid crisis.
In expressing his gratitude for her attendance at the symposium, Feinberg said: “I don’t think we would’ve had health care reform if it wasn’t for you. I don’t think the ultimate glass ceiling would ever be broken if it wasn’t for you.”