by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Here is what we know: Our national health care system is broken. In 1994, 39 million people were uninsured. Today, some 47 million Americans wake up each morning without health insurance. Of those, some 21.5 million are women, women who cannot get the basic care they need and deserve. Every day, I hear from the women who put real faces to those numbers.

When I announced my health care plan in Iowa, I spoke about the mother of one of those brave women. Six years ago, Lisa Scott’s daughter, Janelle, began having chest pains and blackouts. She was sick for almost a year. Janelle requested a chest x-ray, but she never received it, because while she was working two jobs, she didn’t have health insurance, and she couldn’t afford to pay for it out of her own pocket. One week later, at the age of 18, Janelle died. Her death certificate listed the cause of death as unknown, because Janelle was never able to afford a proper diagnosis, a diagnosis that with care might have saved her life.

So let’s ask ourselves the fundamental question: Should any American die because they cannot afford a doctor’s diagnosis? I say no, not in America.

It’s time we fixed the shattered health care system in this country. It’s time we were all brave enough to take action and to fix a system that leaves nearly one in six Americans on the outside looking in. We can no longer afford to talk about the ideals of freedom and equality when families are filing for bankruptcy because they can’t pay their medical bills; when mothers can’t take their sick children to the doctor; and when everyday illnesses lead to death because women are unable to seek the care they need.

Only 67 percent of uninsured women reported visiting a health care provider compared with 89 percent of those with private insurance, according to a recent study (PDF). Two-thirds of women without health insurance say they have delayed or gone without health care they needed because they cannot afford the cost. Too many women go without critical, life-saving and cost-saving preventive care — mammograms, breast exams, pap smears, osteoporosis screenings and even routine check-ups — because they cannot afford the cost.

Women are suffering, and women over 40 are bearing a disproportionate amount of the burden. Some 13 percent of women aged 55-64 are without health insurance. When their husbands become eligible for Medicare and lose their private insurance, many of these women find themselves without coverage and unable to afford alternative insurance.

During their golden years, they should not have to choose between spending on their family’s basic needs and fulfilling a prescription. Nearly 20 percent of women reported spending less on family necessities in order to pay for essential medications and 41 percent of women without insurance have gone without medicine because they couldn’t afford the cost.

All of us have to make tough decisions, every day. But these decisions — between putting food on the table and buying clothes your children, or paying for a doctor’s visit — those are not the sort of choices Americans should have to make.

I want every woman to have the same quality insurance options as Members of Congress receive. I want every woman to have the option of keeping the health insurance that works for her, or switching to a plan that serves her family better. And that is exactly what my American Health Choice Plan does.

I hear the suffering and pain that American women experience every day and I say no more, not in America. We have a plan and we can do better. I want every woman to get the quality care she needs; we can do it, we can make it fiscally sound, and when I’m president, we will make it happen.

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Ed. note: also see WVFC’s exclusive online Q&A with Hillary Clinton

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  • Barbara Rochman October 29, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    We should have a single payer health care system in this country. Someone should point out that “free markets” don’t always work and health care is a good example. But I guess it won’t be you since there’s an election to win. I would feel better if I thought that deep down you believed that single payer is better, but I don’t think you do.
    I write as someone who has fairly good health care coverage that costs me almost nothing because I once served on a government commission. Nonetheless, I know that if I hadn’t had that stroke of luck I would have been in big trouble.

    Reply