THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||July 7, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
UPON SIGNING AN EXECUTIVE MEMORANDUM ORDER SUPPORTING
THE KASSEBAUM KENNEDY LAW
The Grand Foyer
2:20 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Mr. Pomeroy, we're delightedto have you here, along with your colleagues, and we appreciate thework you do every day. I want to thank all of those who are herewith me on this platform who are responsible for the action we'retaking today and the work we've done on health care. And, like theVice President, I'd like to say a special word of appreciation toSenator Kennedy.
I honestly believe that when the history of the UnitedStates Congress in the 20th century is written, there will be veryfew people who have exercised as much positive influence to benefitthe American people, whether they were in the majority or theminority, as Senator Kennedy. And this is one of the crowningachievements of his career, and I'm very grateful to him for whathe's done. (Applause.)
I have done everything I knew to do to help our countrymove forward to expand health care access and improve health carequality. Yesterday I announced an important initiative to help morethan 3 million senior citizens get assistance in paying theirMedicare bills. I have called upon Congress to rise abovepartisanship and join me in ensuring that the well-being of thepatient will always be our health care system's bottom line, whetheror not the patient is in a managed care plan or in traditionalfee-for-service medicine. And in a few moments I intend to takeaction to strengthen the vital health care protections of theKennedy-Kassebaum law.
It was nearly two years ago that I stood with many ofthe people in this room on the South Lawn to proudly sign that billinto law. It was a remarkable achievement, the product ofextraordinary dedication by Senators Kassebaum Baker and SenatorKennedy and others. It's given millions of Americans the chance tochange jobs without losing health insurance even if they or someonein their family has a so-called pre-existing condition.
Unfortunately, reports have shown that some health plansare paying no more than lip service to the requirements of the law --delaying or denying coverage to eligible Americans. That isunacceptable. It is wrong.
I will sign an executive order at the conclusion of thisevent to give new teeth to the Kassebaum-Kennedy law and new peace ofmind to Americans with pre-existing conditions. As the singlelargest buyer of private health insurance, the federal governmentspeaks with a very loud voice. With that voice, we now put healthplans on notice. This administration has zero tolerance for actionsthat undermine these vital health care protections. If you violatethe letter or the spirit of the Kassebaum-Kennedy law, we will, ifnecessary, terminate your contract to provide health insurance tofederal employees. If you say no to people with pre-existingconditions, the federal government will say no to you. (Applause.)
I am very pleased that the National Association ofInsurance Commissioners will join the Department of Health and HumanServices and the Office of Personnel Management in these efforts. Asthe primary enforcers of the Kassebaum-Kennedy law, the statecommissioners play a crucial role, and I thank them for their help.
Now it's Congress' turn also to get involved. We mustwork together in the same spirit of bipartisanship that produced theKassebaum-Kennedy law to enact an enforceable Patient's Bill ofRights. All Americans deserve to know that the medical decisionsthey depend upon are being made by medical doctors and not insurancecompany accountants. All Americans have the right to know all theirmedical options, and not just the cheapest. All Americans shouldhave the right to choose the specialists they want for the care theyneed. All Americans should have the right to emergency room carewhenever and wherever they need it. Traditional care or managedcare, all Americans deserve quality care.
In February I took executive action to extend thisPatient's Bill of Rights to all the 85 million Americans who gettheir health insurance through the federal government. Now Congressmust do so for every American.
Today, there are only 37 working days left in thissession of Congress, but that's no excuse for failing to act, andmillions of Americans are looking to us for the right kind of action.They want us to pass a strong, bipartisan Patient's Bill of Rights.They want us to put progress over partisanship. They want us toleave our country stronger for the century just ahead. I believethis action today helps to achieve that goal, and I thank all of youfor your role in it.
Thank you very much.