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Clinton, Other Leading Democrats Say Action on Health Care Is Urgent

Key Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), today cited health care as the No. 1 issue facing Americans.

In an event in Denver sponsored by Families USA, a liberal health care advocacy group, and the Service Employees International Union, leading Democrats discussed how lawmakers and citizens can help repair what speakers called a broken health care system.

“We don’t have the option of doing nothing in a system that is leaking with people who are uninsured and totally underinsured,” Clinton said. She called the fight for a national health care policy the cause and passion of her life.

“I’m looking forward to being there when President Obama signs the bill that will come to his desk, for quality, affordable health care for every American. And when that happens, we will have to probably duplicate what will happen [Thursday] at Invesco Field,” she said, referring to the location of Sen. Barack Obama’s speech accepting the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Participants emphasized accessibility, affordability, quality and universal coverage.

“As a taxpayer, I think we’re entitled to that coverage,” Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) said.

Participants called for a national health care plan to be passed during the first 100 days of the next administration.

“We’re in a strange time, when an American charged with a felony gets a lawyer appointed for him but where an American who going to die of cancer or some other fatal disease can’t get a doctor,” said Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees health policy.

The Census Bureau reported this week that 45.7 million people were uninsured in 2007, a decrease from 47 million in 2006.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) called on governors to act together in order to put a national health care plan in place.

“We [governors] are the troops on the ground,” Sebelius said.

Participants also cited excessive costs within the current system.

Nothing matters “unless we corral health care costs,” Pennsylvania’s Gov. Ed Rendell (D) said.

Rendell and others expressed the hope that technology can help. One idea, borrowed from New Zealand, would have every American receive a card at birth with all health-related information on it. The card could be accessed at any health care facility.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) acknowledged that legislators have floundered on fixing the health care system in the past. “I don’t want to be distracted or lose our focus,” he said. “Once we get on health care, I want us to stay on health care ‘til we get it done.”

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