[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 13, 1998]
[Pages 373-374]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on the Final Report of the President's Advisory Commission on 
Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry and on 
Establishment of the Quality Interagency Coordination Task Force
March 13, 1998

    Thank you very much. Mr. Vice President, thank you for your work on this issue and your interest 
in it. I thank Secretary Shalala, Secretary 
Herman, Secretary West, the members of the White House staff who worked on this. 
But especially let me thank the members of the Commission and the 
Executive Director of the Commission, Janet Corrigan. They have done a remarkable citizen service for the 
people of the United States of America, and we're all very grateful to 
    As we approach a new century with all its stunning advances in 
science and technology, we know that many of them will come in medicine 
and health. We must act now to spread these breakthroughs and improve 
the quality of health care for every American. I accept the Commission's 
report. I endorse your recommendations.
    For 5 years we have worked to expand access to quality health care 
for the American people, step by step: health insurance coverage for 
people who move between jobs; expanded health care coverage for millions 
of children; strengthened Medicare with more preventive benefits. Last 
year, as the Vice President said, this Commission recommended a 
Patients' Bill of Rights. Last month I acted to ensure by Executive 
order that one-third of all Americans--those in Medicare, Medicaid, 
veterans health care systems and other Federal plans--enjoy the benefits 
of this Patients' Bill of Rights. Now these protections must be extended 
to all Americans. And in the remaining 68 days of this congressional 
session, Congress must take the next step and make the Patients' Bill of 
Rights the law of the land.
    Now, as you have told America in this report, we must also seize 
this moment of opportunity to improve the quality of health care for all 
our people. For all its strengths, our health care system still is 
plagued by avoidable errors, overused and underused procedures and gaps 
in the quality of care. For example, when hundreds of thousands of 
Americans are needlessly injured while in the hospital, when 18,000 
Americans die of heart attacks that did not have to be fatal, when 
80,000 women undergo unnecessary hysterectomies every year, surely we 
can do better.
    This Commission has drawn a road map for higher quality across 
American health care.

[[Page 374]]

Above all, our Nation must develop uniform national standards so that 
health plans can compete on quality, not just cost, and so that health 
care consumers can judge for themselves. This is the best way to assure 
quality health care for all Americans.
    We can take three steps to advance these high health care standards. 
First, health care quality standards should be set at a forum bringing 
together providers, business and labor, consumers, insurers, and 
Government. I've asked the Vice President 
to convene this health care quality forum this June.
    Second, I'm ordering Federal agencies to create a task force to find 
ways to improve quality in the health care systems that we operate. The 
Federal Government must lead the way in lifting health care quality for 
all our people.
    Third, I support this Commission's recommendation to create a 
permanent Health Care Quality Council to set new goals and track our 
progress in meeting those goals. A council should be established by any 
health care quality legislation enacted this year.
    We can make this year a time of real achievement in our mission to 
improve health care for every American. The American health care system 
has been the best in the world in the 20th century. If we press forward 
with medical research, enact a Patients' Bill of Rights, insist on high 
quality everywhere in America, continue to expand quality affordable 
coverage, protect and preserve Medicare and Medicaid, we can make 
American health care the best in the world in the 21st century.
    Now I intend to sign an Executive order to all the relevant agencies 
to make sure they work together to develop the standards you recommend 
for quality health care, first for those whom we reach and hopefully as 
a model for all Americans.
    Again, I thank this Commission. I ask the people and the members of 
the press here present to remember just the single instances I cited 
from the Commission's report of examples where we still have serious 
quality challenges. And I ask you all to rededicate yourself to this 
purpose on this day.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:45 p.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to his memorandum of February 20 on 
Federal agency compliance with the Patient Bill of Rights.