PRESIDENTIAL DEBATEOctober 16, 1996
JIM LEHRER: All right, the next question from this section right here. Right there in the middle, sir. Yes, sir?
ROBERT BERKELEY: Dr. Robert Berkeley. I'm a cardiologist from Fallbrook, California. Mr. President, I'd like to know if you'd please explain your plans for -- in a substantive fashion, for addressing the problems with the health care system in our country.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I will. First of all, let me say what we have done: In the last four years, we've worked hard to promote more competition to bring down the rate of inflation in health care costs without eroding health care quality. The government pays for Medicare and Medicaid, as you know, and that's very important.
Secondly, we've added a million more children to the ranks of the insured through the Medicaid program. We have protected 25 million people through the passage of the Kennedy-Kassebaum Bill that says you can't lose your health insurance if you change jobs or someone in your family's been sick. We just recently ended those "drive-by deliveries," saying people couldn't be kicked out of the hospital by insurance companies when they just had babies. So this is -- that's a good start.
In the next four years, I want to focus on the following things: Number one, add another million children to insured ranks through the Medicaid program.
Number two, keep working with the states, as we are now, to add 2.2 million more people to the insurance system. Number three, cover people who are between jobs for up to six months. That could protect three million families, 700,000 kids. And number four, make sure we protect the integrity of the Medicare program and the Medicaid program and not do anything in cutting costs which would cause hundreds of hospitals to close as could have been the case if the $270 billion Medicare cut that I vetoed had been enacted into law.
MR. DOLE: First, let me say there you go again, Mr. President, talking about a Medicare cut. Now I've heard you say this time after time, and I've heard you say on one TV appearance, "the media made me do it." You were trying to defend your cut, which was not a cut either -- a reduction in the growth of spending -- and we always had at least seven percent. You've said publicly that it's now three times the rate of inflation, we ought to cut the growth to twice the rate of inflation. That's about where we are now. So let's stop talking about cutting Medicare. In my economic plan we increase it 39 percent.
Don't forget what he tried to do with health care. Seventeen new taxes. Spend $1.5 trillion. Fifty new bureaucracies? Can you believe that? You couldn't even have been a cardiologist because they had quotas. You had -- you couldn't -- if you're a cardiologist it wouldn't affect you. But if somebody wanted to be a cardiologist, 10 years from now you'd have to be certain that you complied with some of the rules in this extreme medical plan the government was going to take over for all Americans. There are things we can do like the Kassebaum bill -- retains many provisions that I authored, cover preexisting -- existing -- portability. And there are other things we can do. We still need to cover about 20 million people and a lot of children.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I don't have time in 30 seconds to respond to fix all that. But let me just say, the American Hospital Association said that the budget I vetoed could have closed 700 hospitals, not me. And on a per-person basis, it did cut way below the rate of inflation in medical costs.
But the important thing is, what are we going to do now? We need to help people who are between jobs. We need to cover more kids. We need to provide more preventive care. My balanced budget covers mammograms for ladies on -- women on Medicare, and also gives respite care to the million-plus families who have someone with Alzheimer's. These things are paid for in the balanced budget plan. It will move us forward.