Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton last month unveiled her health care plan and reached out to Women’s Voices for Change for an online Q&A about how the plan will benefit women over 40. Our questions and her responses follow below. Please add your comments at the end.

Women’s Voices for Change: The introduction to your health care plan states that the plan ensures "working families will never have to pay more than a small percentage of their income for health care." Tell us what you imagine the situation will be for single women, particularly older women with fixed incomes.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: Right now, the uninsured are carrying a heavy burden in this country, and older women bear a disproportionate share of that burden. About 13 percent of women age 55-64 are without health insurance. Many women in this age bracket become uninsured when their husbands become eligible for Medicare and lose their private insurance. 

My American Health Choices Plan will ensure that they have access to high quality care at a price they can afford. Due to their age and pre-existing conditions, these women often face difficulties obtaining the health insurance they need. Under my plan, insurance companies will not be able to discriminate based upon these factors. 

But today, even women who have insurance are struggling to pay the bills. Twenty percent of women reported in a 2004 Kaiser Family Foundation study (PDF) that they did not fill a prescription because of the cost. Particularly for those living on a fixed income, out-of-pocket health care costs remain a sizeable share of the budget. More than a quarter of all seniors reported spending at least $100 per month on their medication, and 8 percent reported spending $300 or more each month.

Under the American Health Choices Plan, women will receive a refundable, income-contingent tax credit that ensures that they never have to decide between paying their health premiums and providing for their children’s basic needs.

Insurance companies will no longer be permitted to charge large premium differences based on age, gender or occupation, or deny coverage because of a pre-existing or genetic condition. This plan will end the discrimination against older or sicker patients who often need health care the most but have the hardest time affording it; and they would be required to renew every policy if the enrollee has paid her premiums and wishes to stay in the plan.

No matter her age, every woman deserves high quality health care throughout her life. Under my American Health Choices Plan, she’ll get just that.

WVFC: Does your plan address issues of mental health services so vital in the transitions faced by older Americans?

HRC: Major depression affects twice as many women as men. The plans in the new Health Choices Menu, which provides the high quality care that Members of Congress receive, cover mental health care services to the same extent that they cover physical illnesses.

In the 21st century, our health care system should recognize the seriousness of mental health. We should work to make sure that Americans are getting the care the need to look after every aspect of their well-being.

WVFC: Does your plan recognize that Baby Boomers are aging, and women, who live longer than men, will need more care for longer and a ramped-up focus on geriatric practices?

HRC: Americans, and that includes Baby Boomers, have more health care options today than ever before, but too many of those options are beyond the reach of too many of our seniors. If we’re going to meet the needs of the Baby Boomer generation, we’re going to have to change the way our health care system works so that it is more value-oriented, it has more preventive care, and it has more chronic care management. We need a system where doctors and patients, not insurance companies, are making their health care choices.

The first step is to make sure that every woman has access to the vital preventive medicine that can and does save lives. Seniors are at the greatest risk for heart disease, and simple blood tests can screen for risk factors. One in five women over age 65 is affected by osteoporosis, which can be identified with a simple bone-density test. And up to 30 percent of deaths from bone cancer could be prevented through regular screening mammograms, but one in five women age 65 to 69 has never had one. 

These are simple tests, but they are especially important to Baby Boomer women as they approach their golden years. The American Health Choices Plan will require coverage of these and other proven and effective preventive services. Under the plan, every woman will have access to the services she needs. The American Health Choices Plan funds a Best Practices Institute that would fund research on what treatments work best and would make sure this information was communicated to doctors and patients to help increase quality and reduce costs.

The American Health Choices Plan is going to improve health care for every American and eliminate the inequalities currently facing our mothers and grandmothers. It will grant them all the health care options America has to offer and will give them the information they need to make the best choices for themselves.

WVFC: What effect do you think expanding health care coverage to all Americans will have on our nation’s economy?

HRC: The foundation of a strong nation is the investments we make in each other — in health care, jobs and enterprise. Shared prosperity, which supports the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all our people, is the true measure of our economic success. The American Health Choices Plan recognizes the essential role of small businesses in job creation. Since 1990, small businesses have created 80 percent of new American jobs. Today, women own over 10 million of these enterprises around the country. 

These women are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the cost of health care and by large margins believe that health care should be one of the top priorities of our next president. With the American Health Choices Plan, small businesses that provide high quality health insurance will receive a significant tax credit. This will increase the competitiveness of small businesses and expand access to employer-based health coverage for women.

In the past seven years, we’ve seen health care costs skyrocket while wages have lagged. Americans are working harder than ever before; they deserve the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families. When our workers have access to the health care they deserve, and our small businesses are able to get the help they need, we will truly be able to usher in a new era of prosperity for all Americans. 

WVFC: What is your main concern as a woman about to turn 60? Tell us the steps you take to maintain your own health, and the health advice you receive or share with your friends.

HRC: Earlier this year, I walked a day in the shoes of a nurse. I went in and out of patients’ rooms, trying to decipher doctor’s handwriting and sitting at the nurses’ station talking about their biggest challenges. Looking at the health care system from the other side really gave me a new perspective on the challenges that patients and health care professionals face together.

Our best allies are friends and family who have been through the system themselves. And as I get older, fortunately or not, more and more of my friends have those experiences to share. Women need to talk to each other about the importance of preventive screenings, regular check-ups, and healthcare choices — no woman should lack the care she needs simply because she didn’t know she had the option.

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  • Deloris King June 27, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    I will soon be seventy years old, I just turned independent, I will not vote for Obama even if Hillary runs with him, We don’t need this man as President of the USA. If I have to I will vote for McCain this Nov. Obama was selected not elected. I believe this should be told by Hillary.

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  • CHERYL May 30, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    I AM A 63 YEAR OLD WOMAN AND LIVE IN NEW YORK STATE. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE WHAT A WOMAN CAN DO FOR OUR COUNTRY. NOT JUST ANY WOMAN BUT HILLARY CLINTON. SHE HAS ALL OF US IN HER THOUGHTS AND IN HER PLANS. I COMPLETELY TRUST HER. I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A DEMOCRAT BUT I WILL NOT VOTE MY PARTY IF HILLARY IS NOT THE NOMINEE. OBAMA SCARES ME. I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT MAKES SOME PEOPLE SUPPORT HIM. IF YOU ASK AN OBAMA SUPPORTER WHY THEY SUPPORT HIM THEY CAN’T TELL YOU. THE US WILL NOT BE THE SAME IF HE IS ELECTED. THEREFORE I WILL VOTE REPUBLICAN FOR THE FIRST TIME IF MY LADY DOES NOT GET THE NOMINATION. THIS IS ALL ABOUT RACE. 90% OF THE BLACKS IN THIS COUNTRY ARE OBAMA SUPPORTS. TELL ME THAT ISN’T RACIAL. THE BLACKS ARE VOTING FOR HIM BECAUSE OF HIS COLOR ONLY.

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  • Jim May 18, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Having lived in England for almost 10 years I’m not a fan of nationalized health care. If it happens here, you will get rationing, that will begin for people starting at age 50.
    Rationing will happen, and this is one of the reasons I returned home where I paid-out around 5k for a battery of heart related tests and subsequent meds that my primary care physician in the UK refused me. It is a good thing I did, as I was heading for a heart-attack or stroke.
    If you believe a nationalized health care system will work here, you’d better think again. Everyone wants something for nothing, but someone must pay. Watch-out what you wish for, you just might get it.

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  • janet May 18, 2008 at 8:04 am

    My family moved to Montana
    had to change our blue cross our payments in ca. were 1,200.00 per month for 2 adults and 2 kids, with 1,000.00 deductable it started to go up every year, now in montana it is 550.00 per month with a 5,000.00 deductable after the first year our monthly payment is 750.00 for all of us we are self employed. we have to have insurance. so we are making more cut backs to pay it. but have to cut back on other things to do it. after paying almost 10.000.00 year in payments, then if we do have to go to a doctor, we have to pay those bills too. Now next year if they once again raise our monthly rate, we work up to 16 hours a day in our business at full peak, we are gettingolder and it is catching up with us, what about business people like us.. ??

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  • Roberta May 18, 2008 at 12:35 am

    Hillary said: “Insurance companies will no longer be permitted to charge large premium differences based on age, gender or occupation, or deny coverage because of a pre-existing or genetic condition.”
    Does everyone else not see what that means? Insurance companies are not a charity – they are a business. They can’t pay out more than they take in. They use actuaries and risk analysis to determine premiums. If they can’t charge more for those with higher risk, then they will have to charge EVERYBODY else MORE!
    So the young and healthy will have their premiums go UP in order to compensate that the insurance companies can’t charge more for those that will cost them more. This is a zero-sum game and the consumers and taxpayers. will be on the losing side of it.

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  • carole from Illinois May 17, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    The voters of Florida and Michigan are depending on us to help them make sure they have a voice in this race, and your action is going to make a difference for them — and for Hillary.
    If you haven’t already, please take a moment to forward this message on to your friends, and urge them to join you in standing up for Florida and Michigan voters. Tell them to visit our website and send their own message to the DNC today.
    Again, thank you.
    Go to http://www.hillaryclinton.com
    lets show her we want her as our president. This health care plan sounds quite good.
    Obama’s plan for health will cost our government millions more because he wants to include all immigrants whether they have become citizens or not.

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  • MEMORIE May 12, 2008 at 9:10 am

    I HAVE A QUESTION… IF HILLARY DOES NOT WIN THE NOMINATION…. I WILL NOT VOTE FOR OBAMA I DON’T TRUST HIM PLAIN AND SIMPLE IT LEAVES ME WITH A COUPLE OF CHOICES VOTE FOR MC CAIN
    [NEVER HAPPEN] OR DON’T VOTE AT ALL. WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF HILLARY SUPPORTERS ALL WROTE HER IN COME NOV? WOULD THEY BE COUNTED AND COULD SHE WIN?

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  • jamieynn reilly April 23, 2008 at 8:32 am

    I have been a registered republican since my senior year in high school at Pocono Mountain Sr high in Swiftwater Pa since 1996. But I like both Democrat parties that are representing. No matter who wins, they will have my vote over any Republican running. With running at this, it does not matter on religion, or color, let alone gender, it matters who is going to make the change reality for the first time and that is the point. I would love to live in an area of a women president, but Hilary you really need to stand by what you say. And you need to do this without the negativity campaigning. A real women shows herself honestly, respectively, and intelligently. You would make a great president Hillary, and I personally wish you there already. Strengthen our country and bring our people home, help the America in the areas where you husband or daughter have visited.
    Like Giradville in Schuykill County Pa. I was there that day, and saw you husband. Do not forget the buildings that are in danger falling down on our children like the building I live next too. The fear of my children getting hurt frightens me everyday. Or the fact we can not afford to heat our homes. Can not afford to drive ourselves to the doctor or work. not to mention the hardships of feeding are families.
    So no matter where you are do not forget the poor side of America around every block. The rich people need us poor people to fill there pockets full with money, the same money they use to keep control this country.

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  • Kathy March 29, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    The media has been on Barak’s side since this race started. I think any women who listens to the crap about how this should be a nice race is not someone who battles in the real world. The irony is most things that have come out about him are not from the Clinton campaign. To any women who thinks there is equality for women has no idea how difficult it is still. She has to prove she is tough enough to be “Commander in Chief.” I think people forget how much different an election really is from a primary. Hillary is doing just the right thing. This nonsense about the fracturing of the democratic party is something some bunch of white guys dreamt up to get her to look bad. How about turning it around and asking why does he whine so much about being picked on. Now there is leadership. This, give peace a chance routine is nice in theory, but achieving it takes a strong will and determination. How many of you women got the remark in some fashion or another, as a women I guess you’ll be voting for Hillary? I,ve gotten it many times and it speaks volumes about the state of attitudes in this country. Hillary keep up the fight. I have told my daughter she can do anything, lets finally prove to our daughters they really can do anything.

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  • elaine l March 23, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Hi Naomi
    I think many of us ARE supporting her strengths…and seeing NO need to be negative about anyone. We are blessed with great candidates this year!
    Elaine L.

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  • naomi dagen bloom March 23, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    puzzled by many hillary supporters who take the negativity path–put down obama as the way to support her. make more sense, be more feminist to emphasize her many strengths.
    naomi, obama supporter in harlem

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  • mary March 22, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    website in support of Hillary Clinton for president

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  • Dori Weakland March 6, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    H is for Heart
    I is for Intelligence
    L is for Learned
    L is for Looking forward
    A is for Action
    R is for Ready (from day 1)
    Y is for Yes to a woman prez

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  • Patricia March 5, 2008 at 10:32 am

    I was in tears last night when Hillary grabbed Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island by the balls! I felt myself that I had been in this incredible race and was nearing the finish line in first place. All my hopes and prayers are going out to you Hillary! 25 years ago I named my daughter Hillary. There is strength in that name. GO HILLARY!

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  • Linda Ferraro March 5, 2008 at 7:12 am

    Dear Hillary:
    YEAH for last night, Texas, Ohio & RI. My husband and I are so happy for you. We need a smart and experienced person, who happens to be a woman, show the country what it’s all about.
    When I listen to Obama’s speeches, I feel like I’m back in high school, “I want to CHANGE the world” We all want to change the world, but he needs to back it up how he’s going to do it!!! People in this country are naive!!
    My husband and I voted for you in Massachusetts and will be voting for you in November. We love Chelsea. She has grown into a classy woman like her mom. Oh yes, we both voted for your husband too, twice!!!

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  • Cheryl March 2, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Please Please Please do NOT drop out of the race. Hold on to the very end. We need your voice, your strength and your compassion.

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  • Ana Burke February 27, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Dear Hillary — I have been in America 37 years. I have finally filed for my citizenship so I can vote for you. You have to win because i hate to think that I paid $400.00 for nothing. I had to borrow the money. I want you to win so bad I have never felt this good about any other president that I will denounce my country for. Well I did love your husband too. You both are the best. Thank you.

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  • Selena February 22, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Her American Health Plan is a fantastic idea. Although i’m not of the age she is speaking, I too have a hard time trying to find an insurance I can afford to pay. I’m on a fixed income and disabled due to a MVA, and I recieve too much to get Medicaid (but yet I have two children, and bills, and expenses), but have to wait a total of two years before I can recieve Medicare. So the insurance plans I research on preexisting conditions are sky high! I hope she is able to help everyone with this proposed plan.

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  • Jan Williamson February 19, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Hillary, I have been with you from day 1. I would like to see you address women’s issues i.e. abuse.
    Thank you.

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  • Kristien February 10, 2008 at 6:26 am

    I am a European woman so I can’t vote but if I could I would vote for Hillary because in the past she has proven that she does a lot of efforts to improve the situation of women. As the US has a big influence in the rest of the world this would affect us too. Many black women vote for Obama but they should realize that Hillary stands for the rights of all women (white, black and yellow). As said in the song “woman is the nigger of the world” it is the woman who is really in the weak position in society.

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  • Kim Davids November 26, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    I have never been so excited about a candidate before. I’m just one of those middle aged women waiting for a voice in DC finally.
    I would love to work for this campaign here in Michigan. Get in touch with me and I will start right away with all the joy I can give.

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  • Melina Harris October 31, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    I need the pharmaceutical companies to be more responsible, be required to do more on going research for the massive amount of drugs, money and power they control.
    Case in point. I am 42; I have been on the Depo Provera Shot from age 17. High school to menopause time. When I searched for advice on this basic question, I found there was none. Extended use will cause bone loss, but not diddly on reaching menopause age and the hormones are and will change and this is a hormonal drug. Yes, I spent many hours searching and calling Pfizer. Too many new drugs in the last 80 years, and not enough ongoing research required.
    Fact, America is on Drugs and the dealers are running amok. If you want to improve health care, I think you will find that insurance is for the rich on this planet, but drugs are a profit world wide. I have spent an incredible amount of time in the last decade trying to get friends and family off of drugs that were causing more harm than good. I have been to several doctors and a psychiatrist to prove my point to a loved one that the doc would, with out thinking twice, prescribe me drugs that could harm or kill me.
    I was very fair and gave the professionals the needed information from my file that should have been bright red flags, got the Rx from the doctors, and then printed out from the internet the fine print on the drugs.
    I am not sure that more people being able to afford that kind of help, will do much to improve the lives of Americans. Go get um MiLady, we need all the help we can get. Thank you.

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  • Dusty Tyukody, Toledo, OH October 26, 2007 at 9:29 am

    I really want to support Hillary and I also want to believe that she can make something good and meaningful happen with regards to healthcare reform. This past 18 months, under COBRA, I have had to layout over $6500 in insurance premiums to keep myself covered with a $500 deductable. Under a single plan that I am now converting to my yearly cost will be $3000 a year BUT with a $5000 annual deductible!!
    My worry is that the insurance and pharmaceutical companies will continue to have an unfair, unequal influence on Hillary’s program making the details of the health care options inadequate, with hidden costs to the insured. Reform in healthcare must be REAL for us who have to shell out limited savings for premiums and deductibles. We cannot afford the smoke and mirror shell games that the insurance companies play with us to look good while offering little.

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  • naomi dagen bloom October 25, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Like Lisa in her comment above, I believe Hillary Clinton has good intentions. Sorry, that’s not enough! Day by day American health care erodes. Doctors refuse Medicare reimbursement, prescription plans change to more costly options.
    Even those of us over 65 who thought we had very good coverage find the sand shifting.
    We need more specifics from candidates on mental health programs/initiatives for people of all ages. Anger, depression, helplessness is reflected in the random violence we read about too often.

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  • pat dougherty October 25, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    I pay over 1,000 a year in ss and 1,000 a year for private ins. mostly for Rx, yet i still pay out in deductible amounts to doctors and for rx – I cannot afford dental care, eye care, mental health care and even skin care because the deductibles are too high.
    My yearly expenses exceed my income and I am in debt. I worked for 40 years and now have only ss and a small pension to live on. Any money I saved was eaten up when my daughter got lung cancer – no insurance – and died. one catastrophic illness can wipe you out – I know all too well.
    Our medical practitioners are getting less and insurers are reaping the benefits. 40% of all medical costs go to Insurers and Medical Billing companies. Yes we need better affordable health care but giving it to the insurers is not the answer.

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  • lisa October 25, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    Thanks for this interview. I felt it forced some very telling revelations about Hillary. I, for one, am impressed by the empathy — and the real-world context — in her plan.
    Having said that, I have felt for awhile that a plan which does not talk about a universal, government-administrated healthcare system — that tries to cobble stuff together with tax incentives and such — really doesn’t mean much at all. It will inevitably fall prey to loopholes and getting picked apart through the legislative process.
    For older women, in particular, I’m very wary of what I find a half-hearted addressing of prescription drug costs.
    I really think a candidate/President could forge a consensus — create a mass movement — in support of real, complete, sane reform. She or he would have all the facts — as well as all the emotions — on their side.

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