(Des Moines, IA) Republican candidate John Kasich on Friday became the first to sign a Catholic Health Association pledge to “make accessible and affordable health care for all a priority goal” if he’s elected president, but Kasich said details of his health reform plan will come in a few weeks.

During a news conference at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, Kasich said the working poor after often forced to decide to use their insurance payments for other necessities.

“The tragedy now is it’s the very people who are doing the most to try to pull themselves up who many times find themselves in the most difficult position,” Kasich said.

According to the Catholic Health Association (CHA), 44 million Americans do not have health care insurance, a mass of people roughly equal to the population of Iowa and its nine surrounding states. The CHA lists 532 Catholic hospitals, 319 long-term care facilities and 62 health care systems as members and claims to be the largest single group of not-for-profit healthcare facilities in the U.S.

The group’s president, Father Michael Place, said it’s a “national tragedy” that so many Americans, particularly children, live without health insurance coverage.

“In a sense, our nation cannot and will not be complete as long as we leave 44 million Americans without health insurance,” Place said.

Place said health care coverage should be as much a right as a

public education.

“We argue that healthcare in this nation should be considered an essential building block for a free society,” said Place.

For his part, Kasich argued the best approach to providing a health care “safety net” for Americans who “find themselves up against a wall” is through a “market-oriented” approach.

“It is a difficult, complicated issue and one that requires a little bit of guts to talk about,” Kasich said.

Kasich promised the small crowd of Iowa hospital executives he’ll soon release a detailed plan which proposes changes in Medicare, the government-run health care system for America’s elderly, as well as major insurance reform.

The health care crisis “will not be resolved in a piecemeal way. They need to be solved comprehensively,” Kasich said. “I do not believe that the answer to this lies in more government, in fact I think that a top-down financing by government has in fact aggravated this problem but it will require us to have an honest conversation about a comprehensive plan.”

Kasich is an Ohio Congressman who’s presently the chairman of the

House Budget Committee.