C. Everett Koop National Health Awards


October 18, 1994

Thank you so much. Thank you so much Dr. Koop. He has been an inspiration and wise counselor during these past twenty months and I am so grateful to him. He has more good ideas every day than most of us have in a year and it takes a lot of energy to keep up with him. What we are doing here today is celebrating another of his very good and important ideas that has taken shape as the C. Everett Koop National Health Awards. I also want to thank Carson Beadle, President of the Health Project and Dr. Mary Jane England, the chair of the Work Side Programs for the Health Project and President of the Washington Business Group on Health, which was one of the groups that was helpful to us as we tried to shape the direction of health care reform. I also want to acknowledge Dr. Jim Freeze, and Dr. Reed Tuckson, and others of you that have been involved in this movement for health awareness, for prevention, for wellness, and then for all of you who are involved in the day to day way with the management of disabilities in the work place and the kind of practical problems that you encounter in the work that you must do in order to assist your employees and also try to do the best that you can with your employers challenges in the health care field.

I think that it is so important that groups such as this and groups that are represented here continue to recognize that changing and improving the health care system is a shared responsibility at all levels of our society. There are obviously things that we as individuals can and should do to take better care of ourselves. And things that we can and should do together collectively to improve our health and well being. Also, to continue efforts to reform our health care system. Many of the companies honored here today and represented here have been leading the way in attempting both to encourage individual responsibility and to work out ways collectively to manage many of the health care challenges that we know so well. And they have proven that there are ways that costs can be cut and peoples health can be improved. They are not mutually exclusive goals. One of the hardest issues that I felt that we confronted in the last twenty months in our efforts to educate the public about health care was presenting what intuitively too many people seemed like an inherent contradiction. And that is that we can make better, more efficient use of our health care dollars not only without sacrificing the quality of health care but in many instances actually improving the quality of health care. I know Dr. Koop and others said that at least a million times, and I felt like I said it at least a trillion times, but it was still very difficult for people to grasp.

In our system we have spent so much money and we have spent it in so many ways that have not enhanced the quality of health care, but have instead fed the paper work hospital, the bureaucracy of our financing system, and many people could not recognize what it would mean to more efficiently deliver the health care dollar. But that's why the President and I are so grateful to groups like the Health Care Project, and the companies that are represented and honored today. They do in many important ways stand not only for bringing together what appeared to be mutually inconsistent goals in our efforts for health care reform, but they also greater cooperation and understanding between the public and private sectors and emphasize the importance of preventive health care. We have tried very hard and will continue to do so to make the point that the government is already involved in the health care system. You all know that, you are on the front lines. I must confess that I was continuously amazed that so many of our fellow citizens did not know that.

I would be asked often and occasionally with Dr Koop at my side why the President wanted the government to run the health care system. And I would say that is not at all what he is recommending. He wants there to be better incentives in the private sector and a more efficient market place so that health care can be delivered better at higher quality to all Americans. And someone would usually follow up and say well that's not what I heard and that is not what I read and we do not want the government in health care. And I would say let me ask you this do you know anything about Medicare? And they would say what does that have to do with anything. Well Medicare is a government financed health care system but the government does not tell you what doctor to go to. And that was just one of the many examples of how there is this confusion about what the government already does and what the possibilities for better cooperation and more efficient of allocation of resources might be.

We are particularly pleased that companies such as the ones that were honored here today are making it clear there are many things we can do within this system even absent reform that will make a difference in peoples lives and will make a difference in the cost of health care. So I hope that as you continue this conference and as you learn more about what you need to be able to do in the work place and how you can contend with the challenges that you are facing. You will also continue to focus some part of your energy on what we can do to improve this system and solve the problems that are not going away. Individual companies will be able to obtain and sustain for some period of time perhaps some kind of competitive edge within the existing system. The underlying problems of the way we finance health care, the underlying problems of cost shifting, and the underlying misallocation of literally billions of dollars that do not go directly to health care but instead to the paper work health care system will continue to plague us and undermine your best efforts and the rest of our country's best efforts to have a health care system that provides high quality health care at an affordable cost to every American. I believe this should continue to be our goal, and it ought to be what will work for both the individual and the business and government levels.

I hope that you will bring your ideas and suggestions to the fore front, and your place of employment, your place of practice, and with those who will make decisions in the future about how we can actually achieve the kind of health care reform that will be good for all of us. Thank you very much.

September-October 1994

National Primary Day Care

C. Everett Koop National Health Awards

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