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Hillary: More Journalists Needed to 'Get to the Hard Truths That Matter'

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decried “wild claims about socialism and death panels” in Obamacare as “fear tactics” that have distracted from consequential healthcare questions.

Addressing the results of Obamacare, Clinton said, “There is a lot to be proud of.”

“Today is the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and over these five years we’ve heard plenty of scare tactics – wild claims about socialism and death panels –but not nearly enough about how to keep expanding access, lowering costs and improving quality. These are complicated but very consequential questions,” Clinton said at the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting celebration.

Clinton mentioned some of the questions she thinks should be asked more often.

“Why is it, for example, that healthcare costs for our economy as a whole are finally slowing down but out-of-pocket costs for many American families are still rising? Is it at least in part because too many pharmaceutical companies take advantage of the lack of competition to charge Americans the highest prices in the world?” Clinton said.

“Is it really possible that the Supreme Court will decide to strip more than 7 million people of their ability to pay for health insurance? What will the new Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it mean for middle-class families? These are critical questions and their answers will impact tens of millions of Americans,” she also said.

Clinton told the audience Americans should be asking themselves how to improve the Affordable Care Act and how to build on the successes of Obamacare.

“Sixteen million Americans have gotten coverage, millions of young people are able to stay on their parents’ plans, insurance companies can no longer discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions or charge women higher rates just because of our gender,” Clinton said. “Innovations are actually moving us toward a better model based on the quality of care instead of the quantity. That is an important record and one that there is a lot to be proud of.”

Clinton said there is “so much more to do” to protect the public from high drug costs and insurance company abuses as well as ease burdens on small business.

“I’m well aware none of this will be easy but it will be impossible if we do not have people like those in this room explaining what’s at stake,” she said. “We need more than ever smart, fair-minded journalists to challenge our assumptions, push us toward new solutions and hold all of us accountable.”

The prize is awarded in the name of Robin Toner, the first woman to be national political correspondent for the New York Times, who died of colon cancer in 2008.

“She’s not been gone very long but I think it’s gotten even harder to do the kind of journalism that she did. Every day, you, the reporters and the writers in this room, are under more and more pressure from changes in technology, in the marketplace and of course in our politics,” Clinton told the audience.

“You’re facing fundamental questions that may not fit into 140 characters but are nonetheless vital to our democracy. I think the stakes are really high. Too many of our most important debates occur in what I call an evidence-free zone. Ideological trumping facts, made-for-cable shout fests, Twitter storms drowning out substantive dialogue and reporting that too often leads to shallower, more contentious politics and either no or not the best public policy,” she added.

Clinton said the country needs more Robin Toners – “more reporters to cut through the noise and get to the hard truths that matter.”

“We need more prizes to recognize those who try and succeed,” she said.

“I don’t want to get carried away here. Those of us on the other side are not always going to be happy about whatever it is that you do but we do understand in our more rational moments that is your job and we and our democracy depend on you – that’s why the Toner Prize is so important,” Clinton added.

The Toner Prize was awarded to Dan Balz of the Washington Post.  When he arrived at the podium, Balz said he was surprised Clinton stayed at the event for his remarks.

“Thank you for continuing to sit here through this. I didn’t expect that you were going to be there. I’m happy to yield my time back to you if you want to take some questions,” he said to laugher from the audience.

Clinton has been involved in a controversy surrounding her use of a private email account during her time as secretary of State in the Obama administration.

Clinton did not participate in a question-and-answer session at the event.