[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[August 1, 1998]
[Pages 1384-1385]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's Radio Address
August 1, 1998

    Good morning. Today Hillary and I are at the fire station in 
Amagansett, Long Island, New York, one of many beautiful communities on 
Long Island, where we're joined today by doctors, nurses, breast cancer 
patients, and public health advocates to talk about something that 
concerns all Americans, making a Patients' Bill of Rights the law of the 
    I'm also very proud to be joined by Congressman Michael Forbes and 
his family. Congressman Forbes is a Republican who is cosponsoring

[[Page 1385]]

bipartisan legislation to achieve a genuine Patients' Bill of Rights.
    We all know that our health care system is rapidly changing. Since 
1990 the number of Americans in managed care has nearly doubled. Today, 
most Americans, 160 million of us, are in managed care plans. I think 
that, on balance, managed care has been good for America because it's 
made health care more affordable and more accessible for more Americans. 
But sometimes cost cutting can lead to lower standards. That's when the 
bottomline becomes more important than patients' lives. And when 
families have nowhere to turn when their loved ones are harmed by health 
care plans' bad decisions, when there's a denial of specialist care or 
emergency care when they're plainly needed and recommended by 
physicians, when those kinds of things happen, we know we have to take 
    Whether in managed care or traditional care, every single American 
deserves quality care. I'm doing everything I can as President to help 
to meet that challenge. For 9 months I have worked in good faith with 
lawmakers of both parties to pass a strong, enforceable, bipartisan 
Patients' Bill of Rights, a bill that covers individual and group plans, 
a bill that guarantees access to specialists and emergency room care, a 
bill that guarantees doctors are not receiving secret financial 
incentives to limit care, a bill that guarantees a remedy to families 
who have suffered harm because of bad decisions by their health plans. 
And for 9 months the American people have waited.
    Finally, the Republican leadership has proposed a partisan bill that 
does not provide these guarantees. Now they've left town without taking 
action, leaving millions of Americans without the health care 
protections they need. Any bill that doesn't guarantee these protections 
is a Patients' Bill of Rights in name only.
    Today the American Medical Association, the American Nurses 
Association, the National Breast Cancer Coalition, the American College 
of Emergency Room Physicians, the American Small Business Alliance, and 
the National Partnership for Women and Families have all come forward to 
say the plan of the Republican leadership is an empty promise; it simply 
will not protect the American public or ensure the quality health care 
they deserve. Now Congress should rise to its responsibilities and 
guarantee a Patients' Bill of Rights, and they should reject proposals 
that are more loopholes than law.
    Until Congress acts, I will continue to do everything I can to 
ensure that more Americans are protected by a Patients' Bill of Rights. 
In February I signed an executive memorandum that extends those 
protections to 85 million Americans in Federal health plans. Last month 
the Department of Veterans Affairs put in place a new health care 
appeals procedure for 3 million veterans.
    Today we're building on our efforts. I'm pleased to announce that 
the Defense Department is issuing a directive to make the protections of 
the Patients' Bill of Rights real for more than 8 million servicemen and 
women, their families, and Defense Department employees. These men and 
women stand ready every day to keep our Nation safe. They should not 
have to worry about the heath care they or their families receive.
    This action brings us one step closer to a Patients' Bill of Rights 
for all Americans, but Congress must act. And so once again, I ask 
Congress to do its part. There are just a few weeks left in this 
legislative session, only a few weeks left to improve health care and 
strengthen our families. Let's put progress ahead of partnership. I ask 
all Members of Congress to join Congressman Forbes, me, and the other 
Democrats and Republicans who want a real Patients' Bill of Rights.
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. from the Amagansett Fire Station 
in Long Island, NY. In his address, he referred to his memorandum of 
February 20 on Federal agency compliance with the Patient Bill of Rights 
(Public Papers of the Presidents: William J. Clinton, 1998 Book I 
(Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1999), p. 260).