Researchers have recently begun testing the African rain-forest drug ibogaine

The San Francisco Chronicle




LOAD-DATE: October 27, 1993

LENGTH: 652 words

HEADLINE: Mrs. Clinton Sells Health Plan To Women Via Satellite Link-up

BYLINE: Sabin Russell, Chronicle Staff Writer

BODY: With a high-tech sales pitch aimed at women, Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday touted the generous benefits and the accent on prevention in the White House’s health care reform plan in a satellite teleconference linking nine cities.

Displaying the same confidence and command of detail shown in her five trips to Congress last week, the first lady fielded 20 questions from women on topics ranging from abortion to fertility treatments.

An audience of about 100 Bay Area women participated in the teleconference at the University of California at San Francisco. The program was arranged in a simple question-and-answer format by the publishers of Self magazine.

Speaking from the National Press Club in Washington, the first lady told one skeptical questioner who feared that abortions would not be covered that ”you have no case” because the plan will cover abortion as a ”pregnancy-related service.”

But she acknowledged to a 38- year-old woman unable to conceive a child that fertility treatments are ”one of those benefits that can’t be included as a guaranteed benefit to all Americans.”


Mrs. Clinton repeatedly stressed the importance of getting patients to see a doctor early, to catch illnesses before they become more complicated and expensive to treat. She praised the heart disease prevention program developed by Sausalito cardiologist Dr. Dean Ornish, which uses a combination of diet and meditation and has reversed the effects of heart disease in some patients.

Noting that one major health insurer, Mutual of Omaha, has agreed to cover the cost of Ornish’s program, Clinton said, ”It is the right thing to do. It is cost-effective. . . . We know that nutrition can play a major role, and I hope that more health plans would follow the lead that Dr. Ornish’s plan has provided.”

Mrs. Clinton indicated that under the president’s plan, nutrition programs such as Ornish’s might be offered as ”alternatives or supplements” to the basic benefits.

The first lady indicated that health plans will have the option of offering alternative therapies such as acupuncture if they are proved to be effective. ”Acupuncture has been quite successful in drug treatment programs,” she said, noting that the health care reform plan would provide a substance abuse benefit to all Americans.

Mrs. Clinton said she wants to see more research on drug abuse treatments, adding that she is encouraged by research at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Miami on medications that might cure cocaine users of their addiction.

Researchers have recently begun testing the African rain-forest drug ibogaine, which has shown promise in breaking some addicts of their craving for drugs. The trials are controversial because ibogaine is a hallucinogen.


Although Mrs. Clinton gave prompt responses to all her questioners, not everyone was happy with her answers. When Krista Reid of Larkspur asked her about the effects of ”self-destructive behavior” on health insurance costs, Mrs. Clinton again stressed the substance abuse benefit and said an emphasis on basic medical care would help people behave better. ”It would not only save a lot of lives, but a lot of money,” she said.

But Reid found the answer vague. ”I think she glossed over the substance of my question,” she said.

Antoinette Hughes, a registered nurse in San Francisco who does not have health insurance from her employer, was more pleased by Mrs. Clinton’s response to her question about the high cost of insurance.

Mrs. Clinton said it is ”a shocking fact that so many health care providers are not insured themselves.” She said people should not judge the cost of insurance by the current system, which she said makes coverage unaffordable.

”I think this health care reform can make a difference,” said Hughes.

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