Clark outlines health care plan in New Hampshire

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(Host) Democratic presidential candidate General Wesley Clark outlined his health care plan to an audience at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center on Friday. Clark says he’s troubled by a system that provides better care to those who can afford it and says as president he would increase health care access for Americans.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Dozens of blue “Clark for President” signs poked out of the snow banks that line the entrance to the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and a large crowd of doctors, nurses and medical students turned out to hear the candidate who has been gaining in the polls.

Clark said as president he would provide tax credits to reduce health insurance costs, and provide coverage for all children. Clark also called for federally mandated nurse to patient ratios and said he would support legislation calling for mental health parity to assure equal coverage for mental illnesses.

(Clark) “But parity is not enough. You don’t have to be in psychiatry to know that mental illnesses respond best when diagnosed and treated early. So we’ve got to make greater investments in identifying and treating mental illness at its earliest stages. That means instituting more comprehensive mental health programs in our schools, bolstering mental health services and drug treatment programs in our communities.”

(Zind) When asked what he would do to revitalize a deteriorating mental health system where the mentally ill are ending up in prisons and nursing homes, Clarks said he didn’t have an answer – but promised to develop one.

Clark made no mention of his Democratic opponents, choosing instead to level his criticism at President Bush. Clark said in restricting the use of embryonic stem cells, the president has put right wing ideology above critical medical research. Speaking afterward, Clark called the administration’s homeland security plan inadequate.

(Clark) “Even under the presidents proposal more than half the shipping containers will not be inspected. There are no standards for cyber-protection, we don’t have adequate preparations for responding to biological attack.”

(Zind) Clark said the war on Iraq has been a setback for the war on terrorism. Instead of going after Saddam Hussein, Clark says the administration should have concentrated on Osama Bin Laden.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

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