THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||March 13, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON HEALTH CARE QUALITY
The East Room
2:45 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Mr. VicePresident, thank you for your work on this issue and your interest init. I thank Secretary Shalala, Secretary Herman, Secretary West,the members of the White House staff who worked on this. Butespecially let me thank the members of the commission and theExecutive Director of the commission, Janet Corrigan. They have donea remarkable citizen service for the people of the United States ofAmerica and we're all very grateful to them. (Applause.)
As we approach a new century with all its stunningadvances in science and technology, we know that many of them willcome in medicine and health. We must act now to spread thesebreakthroughs and improve the quality of health care for everyAmerican. I accept the commission's report. I endorse yourrecommendations.
For five years we have worked to expand access toquality health care for the American people, step by step: healthinsurance coverage for people who move between jobs; expanded healthcare coverage for millions of children; strengthened Medicare withmore preventive benefits. Last year, as the Vice President said,this commission recommended a Patient's Bill of Rights. Last month Iacted to ensure by executive order that one-third of all Americans-- those in Medicare, Medicaid, veterans health care systems andother federal plans -- enjoy the benefits of this Patient's Bill ofRights.
Now these protections must be extended to all Americans.And in the remaining 68 days of this congressional session, Congressmust take the next step and make the Patient's Bill of Rights the lawof the land. (Applause.)
Now, as you have told America in this report, we mustalso seize this moment of opportunity to improve the quality ofhealth care for all our people. For all its strengths, our healthcare system still is plagued by avoidable errors -- overused andunderused procedures and gaps in the quality of care. For example,when hundreds of thousands of Americans are needlessly injured whilein the hospital, when 18,000 Americans die of heart attacks that didnot have to be fatal, when 80,000 women undergo unnecessaryhysterectomies every year, surely we can do better.
This commission has drawn a road map for higher qualityacross American health care. Above all, our nation must developuniform national standards so that health plans can compete onquality, not just cost; and so that health care consumers can judgefor themselves. This is the best way to assure quality health carefor all Americans.
We can take three steps to advance these high healthcare standards. First, health care quality standards should be setat a forum bringing together providers, business and labor,consumers, insurers and government. I've asked the Vice President toconvene this health care quality forum this June.
Second, I'm ordering federal agencies to create a taskforce to find ways to improve quality in the health care systems thatwe operate. The federal government must lead the way in liftinghealth care quality for all our people.
Third, I support this commission's recommendation tocreate a permanent Health Care Quality Council to set new goals andtrack our progress in meeting those goals. A council should beestablished by any health care quality legislation enacted this year.
We can make this year a time of real achievement in ourmission to improve health care for every American. The Americanhealth care system has been the best in the world in the 20thcentury. If we press forward with medical research, enact aPatient's Bill of Rights, insist on high quality everywhere inAmerica, continue to expand quality affordable coverage, protect andpreserve Medicare and Medicaid, we can make American health care thebest in the world in the 21st century.
Now I intend to sign an executive order to all therelevant agencies to make sure they work together to develop thestandards you recommend for quality health care, first for those whomwe reach, and hopefully as a model for all Americans.
Again, I thank this commission. I ask the people andthe members of the press here present to remember just the singleinstances I cited from the commission's report of examples where westill have serious quality changes. And I ask you all to rededicateyourself to this purpose on this day.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)