"We are very encouraged that people are living stronger, healthier lives....But we know that with aging, inevitably, come the infirmities of age. Nearly half the people over 85 -- one of the fastest-growing segments of our population -- need help with everyday, basic tasks -- eating, dressing, going to a doctor. We cannot expect that every older American will be able to fend for himself or herself. And the real question is what are our obligations to help every American get the care that is appropriate for each individual case?"
-- President Clinton
January 4, 1998
In his State of the Union address President Clinton underscored his commitment to making health care accessible to all Americans with new initiatives including measures to: strengthen and modernize Medicare, support families with long term care needs; pass a strong, enforceable Patients Bill of Rights; protect our children from the dangers of tobacco; enable people with disabilities to return to work by accessing health care coverage; improve care for working families without health insurance; and enact tough privacy protections.
Strengthening and Modernizing Medicare.
Medicare faces extraordinary financing and health care challenges. Recognizing this, the President has proposed to dedicate $670 billion of the budget surplus over the next 15 years to strengthening and improving Medicare. By itself, this act will extend the life of the Trust Fund to 2020. However, the President urges the Congress to work to achieve broader bipartisan reforms -- which would include a long overdue prescription drug benefit.
Addressing Growing Long-Term Care Needs.
As more Americans get older, families need to focus more and more on long term care needs. That is why President Clinton has proposed an historic new $6.2 billion initiative to support both the elderly and Americans with disabilities that have long-term care needs and the millions of family members who care for them. This initiative includes a $5.5 billion investment in a $1,000 tax credit to compensate for the cost of long-term care services; a new $250 million National Family Caregiver Program; a $10 million national campaign educating Medicare beneficiaries about long-term care options; and $15 million administrative costs so that the Federal government can offer long-term care insurance to its employees at group rates.
Protecting Patients through a Strong, Enforceable Patients Bill of Rights.
Once again, the President is calling on Congress to pass a strong federally enforceable patients' bill of rights. This Health Care Bill of Rights should contain a range of protections, including guaranteed access to needed specialists, access to emergency room services, and access to a meaningful independent and external appeals process so that consumers can resolve their differences with their health plans, and the right to be compensated when a health plans' decisions cause a patient to be harmed or die. The President is already doing everything he can to implement these protections, by extending them to the 85 million Americans covered by Federal health plans.
Protecting Our Children From Tobacco.
Every day, 3000 children become regular smokers and 1000 have their lives shortened because of it. The state tobacco settlement is an important step in the right direction, but the President believes additional measures must be taken at the national level to reduce youth smoking and hold the tobacco industry accountable.
The President's plan will:
· Raise the price of cigarettes, so fewer young people start to smoke;
· Reaffirm the Food and Drug Administration's full authority to keep cigarettes out of the hands of children;
· Fund critical public health efforts to prevent youth smoking and enact measures to hold the tobacco industry accountable for reducing youth smoking;
· Protect farmers and farming communities.
Improving Economic Opportunities for Americans With Disabilities.
Currently, the unemployment rate among working-age adults with disabilities is nearly 75 percent. The President's budget proposes a historic new $2 billion initiative that removes significant barriers to work for people with disabilities. It includes the Work Incentives Improvement Act, which will provide workers with disabilities the option to buy into Medicaid and Medicare; a new $700 million investment in tax credits for workers with disabilities; a significant increase in assistive technologies that make it possible for individuals with disabilities to work.
Improving Health Care Access for Uninsured Workers.
This new initiative invests $1 billion over 5 years in local communities to integrate providers that traditionally treat the uninsured, such as public hospitals and clinics, into networks that render a comprehensive range of services to uninsured people who are falling through the cracks. Providers will receive funds to develop the financial, information, and telecommunication systems necessary to monitor and manage patient needs, as well as funds to expand the range of services these health care providers deliver.
Protecting Privacy of Medical Records.
In an era of expanding technology, there are increasing concerns about the privacy of our sensitive medical records. The President has challenged the Congress to pass strong bipartisan comprehensive privacy legislation to protect these medical records. The President also pledged that if Congress does not pass this legislation this summer, he will take action to implement protections for electronic medical records through the authority given to him through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.