[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[July 6, 1998]
[Pages 1185-1186]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Medicare and the Legislative Agenda and an Exchange With 
July 6, 1998

    The President. Good morning. I'm delighted to be here with Secretary 
Shalala, Mr. Apfel, and Ron Pollack to make an announcement today. Let 
me first, by way of introduction, say, as all of you know, the First 
Lady and I just returned this weekend from our trip to China. It was a 
trip that advanced America's interests and values in a secure, stable, 
and increasingly open China by achieving solid progress in a number of 
areas and an honest, unprecedentedly open discussion with both Chinese 
leaders and the Chinese people.
    We've come back to America at a critical time. We're exactly halfway 
through the Major League Baseball season, but we're already in the ninth 
inning of this congressional session. We have to use wisely the 
remaining 38 working days to make a season of progress.
    With an economy the strongest in a generation and our social fabric 
strengthening, it is, as I have said repeatedly, extremely tempting for 
all of us to kick back and soak in the good times. But that would be 
wrong. There are still enormous challenges and opportunities facing the 
United States on the edge of the 21st century. We must make this a 
moment of opportunity, not missed opportunity.
    First, we have to advance the economic strategy that has brought so 
much opportunity to so many Americans. In the coming weeks, I will 
insist that the House join me and the Senate in reserving the surplus 
until we save Social Security first. We should fulfill our obligation to 
America's children, with smaller class sizes, modernized schools, higher 
standards, more Head Start opportunities, more reading help for third 
graders, more access to college.
    We should strengthen the International Monetary Fund because our 
prosperity depends upon the stability of our trading partners in Asia 
and around the world. We should press forward with our reform of 
Government by passing IRS reform to guard against abuses and extend 
taxpayers' rights, and through bipartisan campaign finance reform.
    And we must further strengthen families and communities across our 
country with a juvenile crime bill that uses prosecutors and probation 
officers to crack down on gangs, guns, and drugs, and bars violent 
juveniles from buying guns for life; with comprehensive tobacco 
legislation; and with the Patients' Bill of Rights that says critical 
medical decisions can only be made by doctors, not insurance company 
    There is much to do in these remaining 38 days. Congress has a 
choice to make in writing this chapter of our history. It can choose 
partisanship, or it can choose progress. Congress must decide.
    I stand ready to work with lawmakers of good faith in both parties, 
as I have for 5\1/2\ years, to move our Nation forward. And I have a 
continuing obligation to act, to use the authority of the presidency and 
the persuasive power of the podium to advance America's interest at home 
and abroad. Nowhere is that need greater

[[Page 1186]]

than our mission to provide quality health care for every American, 
especially the elderly.
    Last year's bipartisan balanced budget agreement gave seniors and 
people with disabilities new help to pay their Medicare premiums. This 
was the right thing to do. Yet a new study released today by Mr. 
Pollack's Families USA shows that over 3 million of the hardest-pressed 
Medicare beneficiaries still do not receive the help to which they are 
    I want to thank Ron Pollack for his continuing excellent work for 
accessible and quality care for all Americans, and for continuing to 
point out the problems in achieving that goal.
    Today I am launching a national effort to educate every single 
Medicare recipient about this opportunity, using the mail, Medicare and 
Social Security notices, case workers, field offices, working with State 
governments, and using the Internet. Through this effort, hundreds of 
thousands of older and disabled low-income Americans will receive more 
affordable health care without any new congressional action. This is a 
duty we owe our parents and our fellow citizens, and we should honor it. 
It's the right thing to do.
    I want to thank Secretary Shalala and Mr. Apfel for working out the 
details of this outreach. We look forward to signing up people and 
getting them on the Medicare rolls as quickly as possible.
    This is a moment of opportunity. We have to use it decisively. We 
can do so, and if we do we will strengthen our Nation. Again I say, we 
have to choose progress over partisanship.
    Thank you.

Fast-Track Trading Authority

    Q. Speaker Gingrich said that he may bring up fast-track legislation 
again this fall. Are you planning an aggressive push for fast track this 
    The President. Well, I don't know that anything has changed in terms 
of the votes. I would like to see the Africa trade bill, which did pass 
the House, and the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which I understand has 
been modified in the Senate so it may pass, pass. You know I'm strongly 
for fast track, but if there is no reason to believe we can pass it, it 
would be a mistake to keep the other initiatives from passing which 
would do a great deal of good for the United States and for the 
countries in our neighborhood and in Africa.

Health Maintenance Organizations

    Q. Mr. President, in 12 States big HMO's have dropped Medicaid 
coverage altogether. In at least 12 States, major HMO's have dropped 
    The President. Yes, I read that story in the morning paper, and I 
was very concerned about it. And before I came out here, I talked to 
Secretary Shalala about it. She says that in some States, there is 
contrary evidence, so I have asked her to look at all 50 States, get all 
the facts, report back to me as soon as possible, and then we'll let you 
know what we find out as quickly as we can. It was a very disturbing 
story, but we want to get all the facts, and then we'll make them 
available to you.
    Thank you.

Death of Roy Rogers

    Q. Your thoughts on Roy Rogers?
    The President. I would like to say something about Roy Rogers 
because he was, as you know, most prominent in my childhood. I think it 
was from the midforties to the midfifties when he was the number one 
Western star. And like most people my age, I grew up on Roy Rogers, Dale 
Evans, and Trigger, and Gabby Hayes. I really appreciate what he stood 
for, the movies he made, and the kind of values they embodied, and the 
good-natured spirit that he exhibited all the way up until his last 
interviews, not so very long ago.
    And my thoughts are with his family and his many friends, but today 
there will be a lot of sad and grateful Americans, especially of my 
generation, because of his career.
    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:45 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Ronald F. Pollack, vice president 
and executive director, Families USA; Roy Rogers' wife, actress Dale 
Evans, and his horse, Trigger; and the late actor George (Gabby) Hayes.