April 1, 1987 Opening Remarks
I thank you all for coming here today, and I'm looking forward to what this distinguished panel has to say.
Medicine today is saving lives and raising the life expectancy of all Americans. I know what that means firsthand. I've already lived some 23 years beyond my life expectancy when I was born, and that's a source of annoyance to a number of people. [Laughter] As you know, I've had a few stays in the hospital over the last 6 years. The surgeons were so skillful, I'm thinking of having them work on the budget. [Laughter]
But I've seen the lifesaving power of modern medicine, and I know that we have here in America a medical community that's the best in the world. Not only is medical care here the best, it's also more widely available than anywhere else in the world. As we prepare for the 21st century, our goal is to make sure that in the year 2000 that is still the case.
This is why I've come here today. I'm ready to listen and learn what are the challenges ahead for keeping America healthy, for developing the science and the art of medicine, for making sure that good health care remains available to all our people.
So, that's what I've come to hear about, and the floor is yours.
Well, if I could just say: I find myself in great agreement with everything that I have heard here today, and being married to a nurse's aide, that includes your statement about their importance. I made great use of that a few weeks ago. But, yes, in these last statements it seems to me that we have a great deal still to do in education in the sense of informing our people of some things. As Governor of California -- and several widely publicized catastrophic family cases came to view there -- we set out and worked out a plan with the private insurance companies in which, if we would agree to be compulsory, to compel everyone who worked in California to take out catastrophic health insurance at that time, they could have provided that insurance, limitless as to cost, for $35 a year.
And when I say, speaking of education, there's something about this. The frequency of that is not sufficient. You know, that everybody thinks it won't happen to them. We couldn't even get a postcard -- we were going to make this available to the people to decide. We just couldn't get any attention at all about it, and it just died aborning. No one ever thought it would happen to them. And I think here maybe this is a field for us to work harder than we have.
Incidentally, Dr. Bowen, there, may have some comments, if I may be so bold. I'm not in charge here, but Dr. Bowen, as nearly as I have been able to figure it out, is only the seventh physician to ever serve in a Presidential Cabinet in the history of the United States. And having been a Governor doesn't hurt at all. I had just remarked to him a little while ago, we need more Governors in Washington. [Laughter]
Note: The President first spoke at 1:15 p.m. and then at 1:35 p.m. in the library at the College of Physicians. In his closing remarks, he referred to Secretary of Health and Human Services Otis R. Bowen who was Governor of Indiana from 1973 to 1981.