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Clinton to Reintroduce Health IT, Respite Care Proposals

By Colby Itkowitz, CQ Staff

February 13, 2007 -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said Tuesday that she will reintroduce legislative proposals that would broaden the use of health information technology and give principal caregivers temporary relief from their obligations.

During a morning speech to AARP, Clinton, who has formed her own exploratory committee and is considered a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, highlighted the health care system's problems and said "the time has come" for an overhaul.

"I think we need to take a deep breath as a country and ask ourselves, we're spending more than everyone else and we're not insuring everyone and we're underinsuring millions?" Clinton said. "It's time to have a serious conversation about what we do moving forward."

The first bill under her plan would allow hospitals and doctors across the country to access a patient's records electronically. Currently, if a patient needed to see a doctor while visiting another state, Clinton said, "you have to give a history, they'll do tests, and maybe you had that test a week ago." She said such redundancy results in an "enormous" amount of spending.

Her second bill would offer respite for those who take care of elderly relatives or friends. The bill would authorize grants to statewide respite-care service providers. The grants could be used for various purposes, including training and recruiting workers and volunteers, training family caregivers, and providing information about available services.

The former first lady addressed the roadblocks she experienced in the 1990s when she led a failed effort to overhaul health care. She said some feared that insuring the uninsured would take away health care from everyone else. She said others argued universal health care would cause employers to drop employees or restrict patients' choice of good physicians.

"Well, we didn't pass health care reform and all of that happened," Clinton said. "We have many more uninsured, we have an outcry among health care professionals that they are being dictated to."

As she travels the country rallying support for her presidential campaign, Clinton said she is asking people for their take on how health care should be overhauled. She admitted to not having the answer but said a consensus needs to be reached. According to Clinton, there's no choice but to change the system.

She pointed to the advent of human genome mapping as an example—a science that is moving closer to predicting disease through DNA.

"Imagine what that means for an insurance system that tries to exclude people on the basis of preexisting conditions," she said. "Circumstances in health and science and medicine and the economy and globalization are outracing our capacity to deal with those changes in the system we currently have."

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