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June 22, 1998

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The federal commitments I am enacting today give government a new flexibility --cutting across agency lines, forging relationships with private organizations, pooling resources to protect the most vulnerable Americans. This is more than good policy; it is a fundamental obligation to our families. As we approach the 21st century, I am confident we will fulfill that responsibility --and have healthier and stronger families, and a healthier and a stronger America.

President Bill Clinton
June 22, 1998

Today, President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton attend the Seventh Annual Family Re-Union Conference being hosted by Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore in Nashville, Tennessee. The President announces several important health care initiatives aimed at improving the health of older Americans and children, and reaffirms his support for a Patients' Bill of Rights to make the health care system more responsive to the needs of families.

A Plan For Tracking Teenage Tobacco Use. Before leaving for the Family Re-Union Conference, President Clinton called on the Department of Health and Human Services to gather more accurate and in-depth data on teen tobacco use, provide information on teen tobacco use by brand, and give parents and public health officials greater information on how marketing campaigns affect teen smoking habits.

A Forum To Discuss Family Issues. Since 1992, the Vice President and Mrs. Gore have moderated an annual conference to explore ways in which public policy can be viewed through the lens of the family. These "Family Re-Union" Conferences provide the Vice President and others who make policy at the federal, state and local level an opportunity to hear from and learn from the experience of families themselves, and those who work with them. The theme of this year's conference is families and health, the President and Vice President will announce a series of major policy initiatives to improve the quality of health care for our nation.

Signing Up Uninsured But Eligible Children For State Health Insurance Programs. Over 4 million children are eligible for Medicaid but are not enrolled, and as the new Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is implemented, even more families will have children who are eligible for State/Federal health insurance coverage. Today, the President will sign an Executive Memorandum instructing eight federal agencies to implement over 150 new initiatives to help sign up the millions of children who are eligible for, but not enrolled in, health insurance. These initiatives include:

  • Sending over 350,000 letters to federal workers, including Head Start teachers, school nurses, child support workers, and community health center directors, asking them to ensure that all of the families they work with whose children are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP are enrolled;

  • Working with national organizations to help enroll children in health insurance programs. The government will work with diverse groups, from grandparents in Medicare to historically black colleges to educate and identify new strategies to help get eligible children health care coverage. This initiative will also ensure that public housing projects, walk-in IRS centers, and job centers have information about how to enroll eligible children in health insurance;

  • Releasing a new guide to help child care workers enroll uninsured children. The Department of Health and Human Services is releasing a new child care handbook to ensure that child care workers understand how to identify and enroll families with eligible, but uninsured children in a health care plan.

A National Campaign To Improve The Health Of Older Americans. Today, the President and Vice President will:

  • Implement historic preventative benefits for Medicare recipients. Starting July 1st 1998, Medicare will cover two critical preventative benefits -- bone mass measurement tests for osteoporosis, and diabetes education;

  • Create a nationwide Medicare Education Alliance Network between the private and public sector that will work to ensure that families have the information they need to make critical health decisions;

  • Launch a new Internet site for Medicare beneficiaries. To better educate families about health care decisions involving older family members, a new Internet site, www.medicare.gov is being launched so families can remain up-to-date on new Medicare policy initiatives and health options.

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