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Public Papers - 1992

Remarks to the Staff of the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, Nevada

1992-02-06

Thank you all very much. And again, I apologize if we've kept this distinguished group, busy people, waiting. But we're delighted to be here. It's kind of a hit-and-run day. It started in Cleveland where I announced the fundamentals of a new national approach for health care which I intend to work very hard for. But I want to thank Dr. Brandness and single out the Governor of the State, who has been most hospitable to me since we've been here. Also Barbara Vucanovich, who is a Congressman here, a great friend of mine of long standing, and simply say that I'm very pleased to be here to thank all of you for this afternoon's tour.

You can't help but when you walk through these halls and see the incredible work and dedication of the people, as we saw both at the neonatal care and the burn care center, you can't help but count your blessings for those who are devoting their lives to helping others. When you see somebody treating babies like that, tiny preemies, or those ravaged by burns, it just, at least in my heart, evokes tremendous gratitude and admiration for what you do. So, I hope you know that people outside the medical profession are extraordinarily grateful to those who give of themselves as you all do.

I did release this comprehensive health care program earlier today. And let me just, without giving you the full load, summarize a little bit. I know you're used to extended debates about health care. You probably get a lot of requests for free advice on this subject and many others. But I think everyone understands, all of you do, something that politicians sometimes forget, and that is that America's medical system offers the best care in the world.

It's not simply that we start with the scientific and research end, with far more Nobel Prize winners in medicine than any other country, but it's just generally the quality of care. And when people from other countries seek the best possible care, you just have to look, where do they go? Well, they come to the United States of America.

And with all the problems and all the breathless press reports about health care, I think of the guy who got in a car accident. And when he got to the hospital, the doctor set his broken bones, examined him carefully, and assured him that he could go home the next day. The next day came, and the doctor rushed to the patient's room with a look of great anxiety and concern. ``Is something wrong?'' the patient said. The doctor replied, ``I'm not sure. Just to be safe, I'd like you to stay another day. You see, I didn't know how badly you were injured until I read about your accident in the newspaper.'' [Laughter]

Well, there's a parallel here. Reports of the demise of American medicine in my view are greatly exaggerated. I will repeat, American medicine is the best in the entire world. My comprehensive health care plan builds on the strengths, on these strengths of our medical care system. I will not endorse nor go with a nationalized -- they used to say socialized medicine -- a nationalized plan that will guarantee only long lines, indifferent service, and very high taxes.

And I've worked hard to come up with a plan that will work. And that's the plan that we are proposing. It addresses Americans' basic concerns about health care: that too many people don't have access to care, I think we could all agree on that; that it costs too much; and that you can't be sure of keeping coverage if you change your job or if you or someone in your family has an illness or an injury. This plan ensures that every worker, regardless of health status, can get health care coverage, can choose providers, can afford care, and can keep it.

Let me just outline the plan in brief for you. It's got four points. One, we make health care affordable by offering a health insurance tax credit, a voucher, to low-income individuals and families, and then a health insurance tax deduction to middle-income individuals and families. Poor people who pay no taxes at all are covered, and they'll get insurance for free. These measures will help 95 million Americans purchase the health insurance that they need.

Two, we improve the efficiency of our system by reforming the insurance system and developing what we call health insurance networks. You probably refer to it as pooling. These networks will improve efficiency, and they literally will help drive insurance costs down. We make consumers of health care better able to compare costs, keep competition in the health care system.

Three, we're going to work hard to wring out the waste and excess. And we start by putting a lid on these outrageous medical malpractice lawsuits. Over the past decade malpractice insurance, the premiums, have risen by an average of more than 15 percent per year. This national epidemic of lawsuits has persuaded some doctors to avoid such vital specialties as surgery or obstetrics. America's love for the lawsuit has just got to stop. And we've got legislation up there trying to do something about it. And it really is important in cost control, as everyone here knows. It's very, very fundamentally important in how we pay for the whole program.

Fourth, we're going to get the growth of Federal health programs under control. This isn't easy politically, but we've got to do it. Medicaid went up 38 percent this year alone. And we'll encourage major innovation at the State and local levels, and we'll do this without cutting benefits. And I believe it can be done without raising taxes.

America has been blessed by the world's best doctors, the best hospitals. I heard today how this hospital had been able to battle down the costs, eliminating some of the deficit that has been around. We've got the finest training institutions in this country; really, we have the finest. And this plan will not undermine this base of quality and excellence. You don't need your hands bound by redtape either, and you don't need these stethoscopes replaced by Federal millstones.

Having been around hospitals and blessed by seeing loving care for our kids, I am absolutely convinced that the medical profession is dedicated to the concept of service. This debate must not diminish that, must not take that away from the medical community at all. And I think you need our support. Everyone has got to play a part. I'm prepared to play mine in building a healthier Nation.

Every hospital depends also, as we all know, not just on professionals but also on volunteers. And you know this better than anyone, all of you do. Hundreds of thousands of people across this country, in literally hundreds of thousands of groups and organizations give their time to make medical care accessible to others. And every community relies not just on professionals, not just on physicians but also on teachers, on counselors, on nurses, people giving of themselves to help others along the path to good health. Our Secretary of HHS, Dr. Lou Sullivan, has talked eloquently about the rule of character in health. He's mounted an effective campaign to encourage preventive care. He teaches people about good habits, decent behavior, promotes the cause of immunization.

Celebrities, including my friend Arnold Schwarzenegger, promote active, healthy lifestyles. I might say a word about him. He's head of our Commission on Fitness, and he's taken it very seriously. He's gone to 28 States, all pro bono, and taken a message out there that the young people of this country are responding to. So, lifestyle is important. And I don't know about you, but when Arnold says exercise, I exercise. [Laughter] The point I'm trying to make is that everyone has a role. And this plan really encourages people to work together.

And so, I just again want to thank the doctors across this country, using all of you as the audience here today, but others not just here but around the country, for the careers that you've embarked on and are ennobling, on the challenge that you've chosen. And I am determined to push for a health care plan that will work. I think we've got it, and I think we can do it without diminishing and losing the wonder of individual initiative and excellence. That's the hallmark, that's the underpinning of this plan. And needless to say, I don't want to see this many influential people assembled without putting in a pitch for it. So, please help us if you can, if you agree with us.

And thank you for what's been a wonderful few minutes for me in a busy day, started in Cleveland where we went to a hospital in Cleveland and then talked about a little more detail about this plan, then here today, and to San Diego tomorrow, going in there this evening. But it's been a joyous day for me. And thank you for what you do in helping other people across this country. Thank you so much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:25 p.m. at University Medical Center. In his remarks, he referred to Dr. David Brandness, chief executive officer of the center.

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