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Iowa’s Governor Tom Vilsack and former Governor Bob Ray today called upon each of the presidential candidates to clearly define the actions they would take to deal with the serious problems facing our country’s health care system.

A joint statement released by the two said:

“There are serious and growing problems in Iowa’s and in our nation’s health care system. We have an increasingly expensive, complex system of health care with which few are satisfied – not the providers, purchasers, plans, insurers, regulators nor the patients. It is time that all of those responsible for the system stand together to address the problems in a non-partisan way.

“We are disturbed by the situation we see, and we believe all Iowans – and all Americans – should be as well. The issue is too important to allow it to become mired in partisan politics. We are here today to join together in a non-partisan, no fault effort which we hope will bring this issue to national attention so that we can begin to resolve the problems we face. We want to help Iowans understand the facts and start a dialogue on how our nation should address the major health care issues.

“More and more of our citizens are becoming uninsured or underinsured. Despite one of the best economic times in our country’s history, more than 44 million Americans are uninsured and a million more are being added each year to that number. Almost as many are underinsured. Health insurance premiums are rising at four times the general inflation rate. As a result, more and more Americans and their employers will find health insurance increasingly unaffordable, and the number of uninsured will grow even larger. Our trillion dollar national health spending is predicted to double over the next eight years.

“At the same time, the President’s Quality Commission and the Institute of Medicine have pointed out the serious issues with the quality of our health care. There is evidence of overuse, underuse and misuse of services throughout the system. It is estimated that millions of people are injured and tens of thousands die each year from preventable errors. Of course the entire system, including financing, regulation, excessive bureaucracy, and service providers, are partners in creating these problems.

“A number of proposals have been put forth by presidential candidates to address these problems. Unfortunately, the proposals to date fall far short of what will be needed. Therefore, we believe that this is a unique and timely opportunity for Iowa to demonstrate and provide national leadership. Iowa is a key state in the 2000 elections, and bi-partisan leadership on health care in Iowa can raise this issue to prominence in the national as well as the local debates and discussions. Our purpose here today is to help advance the process of discussion and debate both here in Iowa and throughout the nation.

“In light of the health care problems that exist, we feel that all Iowans and voters everywhere should ask for answers to the following questions from all the presidential candidates seeking their votes:

  • Is it fair – is it right – for some Americans to have health coverage and others to go without it? Would you commit yourself as President to trying to secure health coverage for all Americans? If so, what steps would you propose? How long would it take to achieve universal coverage if your proposals became law?
  • The rising cost of health insurance is driving more and more people off the rolls of the insured. What would you do as President to contain total health care costs?
  • Health care of questionable quality is now estimated to be a leading cause of death in America. What would your administration do to improve the quality of care that does not focus solely on health providers, but engages payers, insurers, and government?

The Iowa Department of Public Health and the National Coalition on Health Care are cooperating in this effort to educate and activate the citizens of Iowa and of the nation. The Coalition is the nation’s largest and most broadly based non-partisan, non-profit alliance working to improve our health care system. Its more than 80 members include large and small businesses and the nation’s major unions, and provider, religious and consumer organizations to which many Iowans belong. Former Presidents George Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald R. Ford serve as the Coalition’s Honorary Co-Chairs. Former Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray and former Congressman Paul G. Rogers are Co-Chairs of the Coalition.

Click here for a transcript of former Governor Bob Ray’s bi-partisan call for action on health care.

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