Source: The Record, October 21, 1993, p. A-1
'Think New': At Holy Name, stumping for health-care plan
-- A Visit From the First Lady
By Lindy Washburn, Staff Writer
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the architect of the administration's national health-care reform plan, challenged nurses and doctors at Teaneck's Holy name Hospital on Wednesday to move beyond America's broken system of delivering medical care and "think new" about health care in this country.
"Change may be hard, Risks may be frightening," the first lady said in a 35-minute reprise of President Clinton's address to Congress last month. "But the statue quo is unacceptable."
Flanked by Governor Florio and his wife, Lucinda, Clinton stumped for her husband's health-care reform proposals at this Catholic community hospital in the afternoon after campaigning in Cherry Hill for Florio's reelection earlier in the day.
Clinton praised New Jersey for leading the nation in its insurance reforms.
"Unlike New York, most states have never passed a law making it illegal to eliminate from insurance coverage whose who need it the most," she said, referring to new laws governing health insurance for small businesses and individuals.
And she sought to ally herself with the huge network of Catholic-sponsored health-care facilities in this country. "My own father was in a Catholic hospital," she told a group of nursing students in the hospital's library before her address. Hugh Rodham died April 7 at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center in Little Rock, Ark.
Although Florio used the opportunity to spotlight his own record on health care, he clearly was upstaged by "Our Hillary," as some in the audience of 300 referred to the chairwoman of the White House Task Force on Health Care Reform.
Hospital employees crowded the corridors where Clinton was to pass, whispering to each other as they caught a distant glimpse of the first lady's bright red jacket. She visited the hospital's maternity area, where each mother spends her entire stay, form labor to postpartum care, in one room.
Sister Patricia Lynch, the hospital's president, said word of the first lady's visit spread quickly on Tuesday, and "the phones never stopped ringing."
The governor used the occasion to sign an order creating a women's health commission in New Jersey. The panel's 22 members will have a year to recommend ways to cut costs and improve access to basic preventive and primary care for women. Such a commission had been requested by experts and advocates at New Jersey's Women's Health Summit this fall.
New Jersey's health-care reforms are similar to those the president has proposed, Florio said, "but we've come to understand that no one state's plan can solve the health dilemma we have in this nation. We need a notional plan."
With that, the first lady outlined the basic principles - security, simplicity, prevention, quality, choice, and responsibility -- that she said should structure any plan for reforming the nation's health-care system.
President Clinton's reform proposals "mirror" many recommendations of the Catholic Health Association, whose work Hillary Clinton studied when she began work with the White House task force, she said.
In particular, she was inspired by the Catholic group's adherence to a "higher moral and ethical imperative of health care." Once those principles are in place, the technical details can be debated, she said.
Her remarks seemed directed to the health-care workers in the audience and the students at the school of nursing. "We have taken the most highly trained professionals we have," she said, "and turned them into bookkeepers and accountants." Too much time is spent in non-patient-related paperwork.
Such professionals need more autonomy in their decisions, Clinton said. They should not be micromanaged by insurance company overseers, or base their decisions about patient care on "insurance plan fine print," she said.
The role of nurses must also be expanded, she said. "We need a greater partnership between primary-care doctors and primary-care nurses -- and we don't have enough of either," she said. Earlier she had encouraged 11 students in the hospital's nursing school to do well in their studies.
Ultimately, she said, "this health-care reform debate is not about finance.
"It's not about hospitals, or doctors or nurses....It's about what kind of country we're going to be, what kind of people we are. It's about whether we care about each other, and can solve the problems other countries have solved."