Clinton outlines first term health reform strategy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hillary Clinton said on Thursday she believes the country is ready for a new effort to cover the 47 million uninsured and promised a bipartisan, consensus-building effort, unlike her failed 1990s initiative.

Democratic Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks to supporters during a campaign stop at the Gigglin' Goat Restaurant in Boone, Iowa October 8, 2007. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

“I have no illusions about how hard it is, but I think the country is ready for this. I believe we can get the consensus,” the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination told a Washington health policy forum.

“I think there is a sea change occurring,” she said.

Since unveiling her plan, the New York senator has stressed how this version differs from her polarizing approach during the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton.

Her new plan gives people a menu of choices, including their current health care plan, and tries to balance public and private sector roles and individual responsibility, she said.

Conservative critics deride it as a bureaucratically bloated government takeover of health care.

Clinton said if elected she would not submit a massive detailed health bill to Congress, as occurred in 1993-1994, and would instead lay out a framework and work cooperatively with lawmakers on the details. She said she understood that compromise would be part of the deal.

She said that despite the harsh rhetoric in the political arena, consensus is growing in health policy.

Businesses are teaming up with labor. Some states have struck bipartisan deals on their own reforms. In Congress, Republicans and Democrats agreed to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, although they were not able to override President Bush’s veto on Thursday.

Clinton also called for changes in how the health system works to improve quality and coordination of care, and ways to encourage people to take better care of their own health and fitness.

She recalled that when she was a schoolgirl she took part in presidential fitness challenges and believed that Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy were personally signing the certificates recognizing her achievement.

“I was horrible at it (the fitness tests),” she recalled. “They kept telling me to run -- I said I was running.”