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Owen Williams
Owen Williams

MAJOR. - Why I Love You

Listen to the President's Remarks View the President's Remarks En Español View the President's Remarks Fact Sheet: President Outlines Agenda for Improving Health Security in the Best Health Care System in the World The President's Proposals for Health Security 2:52 P.M. CST THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much Tommy, Iappreciate your introduction. You hear may be in Wisconsin,but you've got to keep your address where it is right now; I'm countingon you. He's doing a fabulousjob. (Applause.) I love Wisconsin for a lot ofreasons: one, you produced Thompson. I love youso much I even come in the winter, which is hardfor Texan. (Laughter and applause.) It is an honor to visit this distinguished place of learning, whichtrains so many outstanding physicians. I happen to knowsomething about Wisconsin doctors. I'm pretty familiar withthem, after all, the White House is Colonel Richard Tubb, raised righthere in Wisconsin. He's not only a fine doctor, hefortunately got special instructions on pretzel-relatedconditions. (Laughter and applause.) My adviceis, swallow after you chew. (Laughter.) But the Medical College of Wisconsin represents the future ofhealth care, here and throughout our country. It's a fittingplace to address the great opportunities and challenges that the futurewill bring our country. Our health care system is in need of importantreform, and on the verge of amazing discovery. We must seizethe moment for the benefit of all Americans. And that's why I want to thank Scott McCallum for welcoming mehere, and I appreciate his leadership for the state ofWisconsin. I want to thank the members of the congressionaldelegation: Barrett, Petri, Ryan, Sensenbrenner for coming,as well. It's good to see all of you. I'm lookingforward to working with you to do what's right for the citizens interms of health care. I appreciate Michael, his leadership and hishospitality. I want to thank the docs who gave me abriefing. And I want to thank all of you for your warm --for your warm welcome. I want to talk about two things, and they both have to do with thechallenges we face. I briefly want to talk a little bitabout the challenge we face abroad. And then I want to talkabout the challenge we face at home, particularly with health care. First, the enemy made a bad mistake. They don'tunderstand us. Let me rephrase that, they didn't understandus. They do now. We are patient. We're resolvedpeople. But we are absolutely determined to defend freedom.(Applause.) I'm pleased to report that out of the evil have come some good, oneof which is that in Washington, there is no difference betweenRepublicans and Democrats as to who is the most patriotic, or who wantsto win the most. All of us want to win the war against terror, forwhich I am grateful. But I want to tell you all that we're just beginning, that I seethis as a unique moment in history. And this nation mustseize the moment. And it's this: either we defendfreedom, so that our children and grandchildren can grow up in apeaceful world, or we blink. And if we blink, the rest ofthe world will blink as well. I don't believe we have that luxury. I believe we mustfind terror wherever it hides, and bring it to justice. Andso the Afghan theater is the first theater in the war againstterror. And we've done a lot in a quick period oftime. I laid out a doctrine that said, if you harbor aterrorist, if you feed a terrorist, if you hide a terrorist, you'rejust as guilty as the terrorists. And the Taliban found outwhat I meant. Not only have we thrown them out, but in doingso, we liberated. We liberated women and children from theclutches of one of the most barbaric regimes in the history ofmankind. (Applause.) I'm proud of our military. And for those of you who havegot a relative in the military, thank you. And I know you'reproud of that relative, as well. There's a lot of focus onone individual in this war on terror. But this is muchbigger than one person. Oh, the guy, he can hide, and he canrun, but there's no cave deep enough for the arm of justice of theAmerican people. And it's just a matter oftime. I have no artificial date deadlines. Ireally don't care if it's tomorrow or a month from now or a year or acouple of years. But Mr. bin Laden is going to meet hisfate. And in the meantime, the United States of America will continue torally our coalition, to continue to cut off money from terroristorganizations, continue to share intelligence so we can react better,continue to defend our homeland, and continue to insist that freedomloving nations find, incarcerate and bring to justice anybody who wouldharm America, our allies, and our friends. (Applause.) There was some concern amongst some that the farther we got awayfrom the horrible day of September 11th, America would waver in ourdetermination. They don't need to beconcerned. We are determined, we are patient, we are tough,we're compassionate. We will not yield to terror.(Applause.) There are a lot of challenges we face. We fight arecession. I'm optimistic we'll recover. But oneof the big challenges is our health care system. I like toput it this way: we face a huge challenge of making surethat we're still the world's greatest health caresystem. That's our challenge. How do we maintainour edge? How do we make sure the American people get thebest health care in the world? And it starts by making sure that we attract the best and brightestto the medical profession. And that can start with thePresident saying, thank you for dedicating your lives to such a greatcalling. America appreciates the fact that you've chosen aprofession that is so profound, and so important. It's amodel of service and excellence. And the achievements of ourmedical professionals set the standards for the entire world. Life expectancy in America today is eight years longer than it wasin 1950, and 29 years longer than it was in 1900. That's alot of progress. And for millions, those extra years of life are moreactive and more healthy than anybody could haveimagined. We're making great progress against many diseases,such as breast cancer and colon cancer and childhoodleukemia. The death rate from coronary disease is down 40percent since 1980. Our country leads the world in NobelPrizes for science and medicine, and in the invention of new drugs andmedical devices. I truly believe that this progress is one of America's greatestcontributions to mankind. It is a tribute to the outstandingefforts of the medical profession, and to a system of private medicinethat encourages innovation and rewards hardwork. (Applause.) Yet our doctors and patients know that our system is far fromperfect. Too many patients feel trapped by the system, with decisionsabout their health dictated by HMOs or governmentbureaucracies. Too many doctors feel buried inpaperwork. I've heard it said that some doctors feel theydon't practice medicine, they practice insurance. At the same time, health care costs are rising sharply, and manypeople worry they won't be able to afford the treatments theyneed. Some procedures are overused, often as defensivemeasures to avoid litigation. And about 40 million Americans stillhave no health insurance at all. We must reform health care in America. We must build amodern, innovative health care system that gives patients more optionsand fewer orders, and strengthens the doctor-patient relationship. Government has got to take an active role in reform. Yetit's important that government's role is not to centralize; nor isgovernment's role to control the delivery ofmedicine. (Applause.) Other nations have triedthis route, and it has led to long waits for treatment, low qualitycare and lagging technologies. And for many patients, theirexperience with centralized government-controlled medicine leads themsomewhere else -- often right here to America, where they can get thetreatment and care they need. The role of government in health reform is to fix the system whereit's failing, while preserving the quality and innovation of a private,patient-centered medical system. All reform should be guidedby some goals. The first goal: all Americans should be able to choose ahealth care plan that meets their needs at affordableprices. When people have good choices, when people aregiven different options, health plans have to compete for business --which means higher quality and better coverage. Most Americans get their health coverage at work. Yethigher costs are causing some employers to cut back on benefits, orinsist that the employee pay more -- especially if they want to choosetheir own doctor or to avoid the complications of managedcare. Many families end up in a health plan whose monthlypremium puts a strain on their budget -- and when they require care,they find what they need really isn't fully covered. So here's what I propose. I propose we give workers morechoice. I propose we reform the system to make the systemmore individualized, by creating personal healthaccounts. Instead of paying a large premium every month forservices you may not use, I believe we ought to have an account thatallows a person to pay a much smaller premium for major medicalcoverage and then put the savings into a health account, tax free.(Applause.) The money is your money. It's your money in the healthaccount, not the government's money. And you can use it forwhatever health care need that arises. If you don't use it,it's yours to keep. And the more affordable -- and for themore affordable premium, you also get catastrophic care, protection incase of serious illness. (Applause.) The tendency for government is one-size-fits-all. Ifpart of reform is to restore the patient-doctor relation and to givepatients more choices, we have to change the tax system to -- and allowfor patients to make decisions that is in their bestinterests. (Applause.) I also propose to help workers get better and more affordablechoices in health plans at work. Now, some large companiesare -- you're okay, you've got some choice. But many smallbusinesses are unable to afford health insurance. And so --and that's because there's not much purchasing power. Astand-alone small business does not have purchasing power in the marketplace. Either they can't afford to cover or they have toallow their employees to settle on a high premium, high-dollar singleplan. And so what I propose is that we ought to allow employers to pooltogether -- through an industry association or perhaps the Chamber ofCommerce -- so that they can get the best deal for their workers, justas large corporations are allowed to do. (Applause.) Too many workers get no coverage at all through theirjobs. This is especially true among minorities, part-timeemployees and seasonal workers. For those with limited means, mybudget will provide new credits to afford health coverage -- up to athousand dollars for an individual, or $3,000 for a family. And they won't have to wait for tax time to get these healthcredits. We'll make them immediately available for qualifyingfamilies, giving them the help they need when they needit. (Laughter.) And at the same time, we'll work with our nation's governors tocreate purchasing groups to negotiate with insurers for the people whouse these health credit. In other words, people who don'thave insurance must be given incentive to purchase insurance; thestates can help them pool, in order to get decent -- decent coverage;but it's not a government program. In other words, we trust thepeople. The government incents individuals to make decisionsin the market place. If the goal is to increase quality careby encouraging individual choice and a doctor-patient relationship,health credits is one way to help the uninsured do so. I also strongly believe that the legislation that I proposed tohelp unemployed workers makes a lot of sense. And it'sthis: as soon as a person qualifies for unemploymentbenefits, the government would cover 60 percent of the cost ofcontinuing their health care. That's a proper role for thefederal government. The role of the federal government is tohelp people who have been unemployed, not only with benefits, but alsowith their health care costs. And the same principle of encouraging choice and helping peoplehelp themselves must apply as well to two government-sponsoredprograms, Medicaid and Medicare. Medicaid and the S-CHIP program provide essential coverage for lowincome families and seniors, and persons withdisabilities. These Americans also deserve morechoices. My budget gives states more flexibility to providebetter options in Medicaid and S-CHIP, and makes additional fundsavailable for states to improve the coverage. And the Medicare program is a source of security and dignity fortens of millions of our seniors. It is an incrediblyimportant commitment that our federal government has made. Istrongly support Medicare because it is so crucial in the lives ofolder Americans. But I understand that Medicare isantiquated. It has not kept pace with advances inmedicine. For instance, when Medicare was established in1965, health care usually meant hospital care. Today weunderstand how important it is to prevent people from getting sick inthe first place -- yet Medicare does not fully cover preventivemedicine. In the past 37 years, many new medicines have arrived to replaceinvasive treatments and surgeries. These drugs can be moreeffective than surgery and are far less expensive. A seriousstomach ulcer, for instance, once required a lengthy stay in thehospital and many thousands of dollars in medicalbills. Today, the ulcer can be cured with prescriptionscosting only hundreds of dollars. Yet Medicare would onlycover the surgery, not the prescription. We must bring Medicare into the 21st century: to expandits coverage, to improve its services, to strengthen its financing andto give seniors more control over the health care theyreceive. (Applause.) I think we're makingprogress in Washington; progress toward convincing the Congress thatall wisdom doesn't exist in Washington bureaucracies when it comes tohealth care for the elderly. We've got Republicans andDemocrats and an independent from the United States Senate working onMedicare reform. Seniors who are happy with the current system should be able tokeep the coverage just the way it is. In other words, ifthere is a senior living in America who says, I love Medicare just theway it is, nothing changes. And that's an important -- it'simportant for a lot of Americans to hear that. But allseniors should be offered different options, a range of options fromwhich to choose, in both the private sector and private markets, aswell as a better government plan with better Medigap options. And allof these choices -- all of them -- however, must include prescriptiondrug coverage. (Applause.) The second goal of reform is quality -- the ability for a patientto get the best care from the doctor of our choice. Managed care plans have done a lot to make health care moreaffordable for many people. They can also unfairly denycoverage, and step between doctor and patient. When suchbasic rights are lost, they've got to be restored bylaw. And that's why I urge Congress to get a patients' billof rights to my desk. (Applause.) We're close to an agreement on this issue. I've given amessage to Congress: please send me a bill that protects allpatients, not just a fortunate few. Send me a bill withcomprehensive patient protections. No one should be chargedextra, for example, for simply visiting the nearest emergencyroom. No one should have to run a bureaucratic gauntletbefore he or she can see a specialist. And if health plansdeny care, every patient should have the right to a prompt review by animpartial panel of doctors. Finally, we should be serving the interests of the patients, notthe self-interest of triallawyers. (Applause.) There will always be mattersthat can and will be resolved in a courtroom. But with astrong review process, most disagreements between patients and healthplans will end up in medical care, not in the courtroom. Needless litigation does not -- needless litigation does incredibleharm to our health care system. It costs everyone time andmoney -- especially patients who need care quickly -- and can destroythe bond of trust between physician and patient. Frivolouslawsuits drive up insurance premiums for everybody, and discourageemployers from offering employee coverage at all. It isreally important to remember that we want to help doctors to heal, notencourage lawyers to sue. (Applause.) And the hostile legal atmosphere that doctors face is adding tocosts and undermining the quality of health care in practicalways. At some hospitals, for instance, doctors have workedclosely with one another to cut the rate of infection after surgery bymore than half. Yet when they discuss that informationopenly, or put it on a paper for the benefit of others, they also putthemselves at risk of a lawsuit. We actually have a systemthat penalizes doctors for trying to prevent errors and avoidcomplications in patient care. And that doesn't make muchsense. These good faith efforts do not deserve thepunishment of a lawsuit and Congress needs to do something aboutthat. (Applause.) When it helps patients, information must be broadlyshared. In the Medicare system, we're giving people moreinformation on the quality of nursing homes all across the country --and we plan to do the same thing throughout the health caresystem. Increased reliance on information technology willnot only lower costs, it also holds great promise for detection andtreatment and the development of new cures for disease. Personal medical information, however, must always be strictlyconfidential. A patient's right to privacy must beprotected, and we will enforce those protections. My final goal in health care reform is to make sure government actswhere it should -- providing a strong health care safety net andpromoting research on the frontiers of science. The federalgovernment has accepted these responsibilities, and we must fulfillthem. Many of the poor and uninsured, including legal immigrants, areoutside our system of health care entirely. Theirneighborhoods often have few health care professionals orfacilities. They have little or no access to preventivecare, and most treatment takes place in an expensive emergency room. Around the country, more than 3,000 community health centers arefighting these problems -- by giving immunizations, providing prenatalcare, and treating illness before they become medicalemergencies. I strongly support these community healthcenters because they're compassionate -- (applause). Theyare compassionate, they are cost effective, and America needs more ofthem. And so I've set this goal: we need 1,200more community health centers over the next five years to make sure ourgovernment fulfills its commitment to the need. (Applause.) The federal government has a large role in medical research, as youwell know here. And that role is now urgent. Inresponse to the threats facing our nation, we've committed more than $2billion to develop new tests and new treatments for bioterrorweapons. (Applause.) This research is not onlyimportant for the immediate, but it is likely to produce new insightsinto the treatment of diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria,HIV/AIDS. Our massive effort to ensure the safety of ourpeople will improve the health of our people. The National Institutes of Health is one of the most successfulgovernment undertakings in our history. The work of the NIHhas helped us defeat a long list of diseases and dangers to publichealth. Now, as scientists begin to read the codes of lifeitself, we are nearing incredible breakthroughs in the fight againstdisease. We may, in our lifetime, lift from humanity thecurse of cancer. This is a moment of great national challenge, and the work of theNIH has become even more urgent and promising. I'm askingCongress to give strong support to the NIH, and my budge


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