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Laura Bush welcomes Ludmila Putina, wife of Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, to the Second Annual National Book Festival Saturday, October 12, 2002 in the East Room of the White House. Standing with the First Ladies on stage are, left to right, Native American poet Lucy Tapahoso, writer Mary Higgins Clark, Librarian of Congress James Billington, and NBA player Jerry Stackhouse.
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 Home > News & Policies > October 2002
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 25, 2002

Radio Address of the President to the Nation

THE PRESIDENT: America's health care system has advantages no other nation can match, but also challenges we cannot ignore. The quality of American medicine is excellent, yet too many Americans live in communities lacking good clinics and basic health care; others are forced to wait for new medical devices that are delayed in an overburdened approval process. And the high cost of prescription drugs is placing a heavy financial burden on many Americans, especially our seniors.

This week, we are taking steps to address all of these problems. Today, I have signed legislation that will expand the number of community health centers across the country. Community health centers are America's health care safety net, providing prenatal care, checkups and preventative treatments to anyone who walks in the door. They serve more than a million people, mainly in remote areas or in inner-city neighborhoods, places where too many people do not have the access to the quality health care they deserve.

I have set a goal of creating 1,200 new and expanded community health centers by the year 2006. The bill I signed today will help my administration achieve this goal. If Congress funds my budget request for these important health centers, we can help an additional 1 million Americans get health care in 2003, and 4 million more by 2006.

Also today, I'm signing legislation that provides faster access to safe and effective medical devices. Each year American companies are creating new technologies to save and improve lives, technologies like coronary stints and increasingly sophisticated pacemakers, which have helped reduce the death rate from heart disease by 35 percent since 1980.

Medical devices are often very complex and require careful testing before they're approved by the Food and Drug Administration. But the FDA is overwhelmed by the volume of new technologies, making delays more frequent, and undermining the quality of device reviews.

Under the new law, we're going to speed up and improve the approval process. Companies that manufacture medical devices will be required to pay a reasonable fee to the FDA, so the FDA can afford more expert staff to conduct thorough reviews within reasonable time limits. The entire nation will benefit from a faster approval of lifesaving innovations.

Earlier this week, I also announced action to bring lower cost generic drugs to market more quickly. Right now, some brand name drug companies are using legal maneuvers to delay the approval of generic drugs, sometimes for years. We're setting new limits on those delays. By reducing the public's wait for quality generic drugs, we will reduce the cost of prescriptions in this country by more than $3 billion each year. These savings will help employer health plans, state Medicaid programs, and seniors who buy medicines on their own.

On health care reform, we still have much work ahead of us. I applaud the House of Representatives for passing a prescription drug benefit for seniors, and for its efforts to fix the nation's badly broken medical liability system, which is driving up the cost of medicine and driving good doctors out of the profession. I'm disappointed that the Senate has failed to act on these important reforms.

With these reforms, and the actions we have taken this week, we will bring the benefits of our health care system into the lives of more Americans. Thank you for listening.


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