For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 1, 2001
President Announces Agreement on Patients' Bill of Rights
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
Listen to the President's Remarks
5:40 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Today, I'm very pleased to announce that Congressman Norwood and I have reached an agreement on how to get a patients' bill of rights out of the House of Representatives.
Charlie started on this issue six years ago. He's worked diligently to protect Americans, patients, from wrongdoings. I appreciate so very much his spirit, because I share the same concerns. And now, after long hard labors, we've reached an agreement on how to amend his bill, that will meet the principles that I outlined.
When I first came to Washington -- right after I came to Washington, I gave a speech that talked about the principles necessary for a patients' bill of rights. In that speech, I wanted a bill -- a bill that was good for patients, a bill that allowed for people to be able to air their grievances, a bill that did not encourage frivolous lawsuits.
Charlie also shares the deep concern -- I'll let him express his own concerns -- but there's no question that he, himself, wanted to get a bill. He was practicing the art of what is possible. It's a spirit we need more of in Washington: people who come to this city with the intent of doing what's right; the intent of having accomplishment; the intent of not playing -- you know, bickering over politics and getting intransigence because you don't get everything you want.
And so after a lot of labor and a lot of hard work and a lot of discussion, we shook hands in the Oval Office, about 10 minutes ago. And Charlie is going to head up to the Hill. I've spoken to the Speaker. We're going to work on the language of the agreed upon amendment. And it'll give the members something positive to vote for.
I want to thank Charlie Norwood for his hard work, for his -- the southern gentlemen that he is, for his willingness to work with the White House. It's a good signal for a lot of folks in Capitol Hill.
Now, Mr. Norwood.
REPRESENTATIVE NORWOOD: Thank you very much, Mr. President. It's a rather exciting time for me. It's been a long six years, and we've all written a number of bills and we've destroyed a lot of trees. My goal this time was to work with this President, who as Governor Bush, we had a few fun rides in Georgia in a van, and I knew he wanted a bill to protect the patients of this country and I knew it was just a matter of time, to keep working until we could get there.
However, the bottom line and the gold is, we want to change the law. And the last time I looked, that's pretty difficult to do without the Presidential signature. So it was a situation where we had to keep talking through this thing, where we could get the President satisfied and willing to sign it but, at the same time, abide by the principles that we started out to do.
And the outline of this agreement, which will later tonight be put into language, does just that. It does protect the patients of this country. The stakeholders that have worked for me and with me, in both parties, are going to be very pleased with this because we accomplished the very goals we started out to do.
And when we set out, what we wanted to do was have standards changed in this country regarding health care as it has developed over the last 30 years. We wanted to make sure people could choose their own doctor. We wanted to make sure that if a patient had any recourse -- and was harmed, they had recourse in some type of court setting other than the situation we have now, where so many cases are preempted.
And, lastly, and very importantly, we wanted to have a good external review by independent folks to give patients a place to go, someone to turn to when nobody would help. And this President is going to deliver that for them and I think the people of America should be very, very grateful for the hard work he's put in, arm-twisting he's done. And this has worked out to be, I think, a great opportunity.
So thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Get to work up there on the Hill, Charlie. Thank you very much.
Thank you, all.
END 5:43 P.M. EDT