[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[December 13, 1997]
[Pages 1759-1760]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's Radio Address
December 13, 1997

    Good morning. This morning I'd like to give you a progress report on 
our fight against waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare system.
    Medicare is more than just a program; it reflects our values. It's 
one way we honor our parents and our grandparents and protect our 
families across the generations. This past summer we took historic 
action to strengthen Medicare by improving benefits, more mammograms, 
cancer screenings, major improvements in diabetes care, expanding 
choices for recipients in health plans, and extending the life of the 
Trust Fund to at least the year 2010. I have also named four 
distinguished experts to a bipartisan commission that will find ways to 
ensure that Medicare will be able to serve baby boomers and our children 
as faithfully as it has served our parents.
    But to protect Medicare and the fundamental values it represents, we 
also must vigorously fight the waste, fraud, and abuse that is clearly 
in the system, activities that diminish our ability to provide high-
quality, affordable care for some of our most vulnerable citizens. 
Medicare fraud costs billions of dollars every year, amounting to an 
unfair fraud tax on all Americans and undermining our ability to care 
for those most in need. Taxpayers deserve to expect that every cent of 
hard-earned money is spent on quality medical care for deserving 
    I am proud of what we've already accomplished to crack down on abuse 
in Medicare. Since 1993 we have assigned more Federal prosecutors and 
FBI agents to fight health care fraud, and as a result, convictions have 
gone up 240 percent. We've saved $20 billion in health care claims. Two 
years ago the Department of Health and Human Services launched Operation 
Restore Trust. Already it has identified $23 in fines and settlements 
for every dollar invested in the program. Our historic balanced budget 
agreement last summer gives us an array of new weapons to help keep scam 
artists and fly-by-night health care providers out of Medicare in the 
first place. And earlier this fall I announced new actions to root out 
fraud and

[[Page 1760]]

abuse in the mushrooming home health industry, from a moratorium on new 
home health agencies entering the system to a doubling of audits to a 
new certification renewal process.
    But we must do more. Sometimes the waste and abuses aren't even 
illegal; they're just embedded in the practices of the system. Last week 
the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that our Medicare 
program has been systematically overpaying doctors and clinics for 
prescription drugs, overpayments that cost taxpayers hundreds of 
millions of dollars. Such waste is simply unacceptable.
    Now, these overpayments occur because Medicare reimburses doctors 
according to the published average wholesale price, the so-called 
sticker price, for drugs. Few doctors, however, actually pay the full 
sticker price. In fact, some pay just one-tenth of the published price. 
That's why I'm sending to Congress again the same legislation I sent 
last year, legislation that will ensure that doctors are reimbursed no 
more and no less than the price they themselves pay for the medicines 
they give Medicare patients. While a more modest version of this bill 
passed last summer, the savings to taxpayers is not nearly enough. My 
bill will save $700 million over the next 5 years, and I urge Congress 
to pass it.
    There must be no room for waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare. Only 
by putting a permanent stop to it can we honor our parents, protect our 
taxpayers, and build a world-class health care system for the 21st 

Note: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. from the Oval Office at the 
White House.