Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel on Saturday urged members of Congress to "put aside their narrow partisan differences" and enact comprehensive health care reform this year.
"We will fail our country if we do not succeed," Hagel said in a written statement.
Members of Congress need to "seize this moment for health care reform," he said.
Health care reform can be "the beginning of entitlement reform," Nebraska's former two-term senator said.
Medicare and Social Security face growing costs that will be unsustainable in the future without fundamental reforms.
"Right now in this country we have the best opportunity we've had in recent history to begin to create real health care reform that will expand coverage for those who don't have it and lower costs for those who do," Hagel said.
"Access to affordable quality health care for all Americans should be our nation's goal."