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GOOD afternoon. And thank you to my good friend David Holley for that generous introduction. And thank you for the chance to offer this one doctor's assessment -- my diagnosis, if you will -- of the debate over health system reform as it stands today.
Now I'm not an economist, and I'm not a public policy planner. But I am a physician, a surgeon, and I've spent a long time working in our health care system.
For 22 years, back home in New Jersey, I was like a primary care doctor -- except it was for surgery. Car wrecks, and gunshot wounds, and more cancers than I care to remember.
Once even a young boy, hit by a train. Not many survive this sort of awful accident. I'll never forget the afternoon when they brought him in. And his family was just outside. Terrified beyond words.
But because we had the equipment we needed, we quickly knew the extent of his injuries. And we knew then what we had to do. Everyone did their job. And he survived. Today he's grown, with a family of his own.
That's just one of the miracles I witnessed firsthand -- when our health care system works the way we all think it should.
But I also know the nightmares it causes when it doesn't work. The devastation of care delayed. Or care denied.
And that's why I am here today. Because there are problems with our health system now. Problems that have been brewing a long, long time.
Problems that the people of California already address through health alliances like CALPERS, and accountable health plans, perhaps best represented by Kaiser Permanente. But the adage, "As California goes, so goes the nation," is not necessarily the answer for problems faced by patients in Texas or Vermont.
Bill Clinton was elected President a year ago this week in large part because he promised to take this one issue -- our health system -- and do something about it. Elevate it to the Number One Public Priority.
I want to say that I applaud President and Mrs. Clinton for delivering on their promise. They have produced a plan of exquisite detail that will be the foundation of all future debate. It's a good job, and they've got it almost right.
Bill Clinton has staked almost his whole presidency on the promise of health system reform, and we understand that. Because this may be the only way to unlock the gridlock, and make change a reality.
We couldn't agree more -- that the status quo is unacceptable.
Certainly the AMA has been pushing for change for a long time now. As long ago as 1987, we were calling on America to take better care of the most vulnerable among us -- the poor, the forgotten, the dispossessed.
By 1990, we were fighting for access to care for everyone. And we offered our own vision for change -- built around universal access to health care and a set of principles and securities that have now come to sound, oh so familiar.
They include an essential level of health care that's guaranteed to every American. A requirement that employers provide coverage for all their …