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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 17, 1994
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                          AT SENIORS BRUNCH

The Old Family Dining Room

11:00 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: I want to welcome all of you here today. You represent 60 million Americans and we need your help to pass health care reform.

One of my key tests for health care reform is: Is it fair and does it protect older Americans? Our proposal does. It preserves and strengthens Medicare. It gives new prescription drug coverage and long-term care coverage to senior citizens. And it protects the choice of a doctor.

Other approaches to health care reform in Congress threaten Medicare by taking money away from Medicare to pay for the health care of others. Congress comes back next week and we'll take up the balanced budget amendment. It also will take money from Medicare without doing anything to strengthen the health care security of senior citizens.

Make no mistake about it; right now in Congress there are people who represent interests who want to use Medicare as a sort of a bank to pay for other people's health care, to bring down the deficit, to do other things that have nothing to do with the purpose for which Medicare was paid in the first place.

We have demonstrated with our budgets that you can reduce the deficit and still by fair to older Americans. We have demonstrated with our health care plan that you can take savings from Medicare and strengthen Medicare by providing prescription drug benefits; by providing long-term care benefits; by doing something to help early retirees and guarantee the security of their health care plans.

I'm here today to say that I don't want Medicare to be used as a bank for other people's designs. I do want to strengthen Medicare and provide the prescription drugs and long-term care benefits, but it can only be done if we fight together for a health care plan that has these provisions. Otherwise, if we don't fight, then these provisions will be taken out of our plan and, in fact, Medicare will be put at risk, either by the balanced budget amendment because of the way it works, or by other people's health care plans.

So I need your help. We can do this. We can provide guaranteed health insurance for all Americans and include prescription drugs, which will save money over the long run, and include new options for long-term care, which will save money over the long run -- but only if you will fight. And I hope you will.

I thank you for being here.

Q Mr. President, for the last couple of days, you've been talking about how hard the health care fight is going to be. At the same time, yesterday the special counsel in the Whitewater case said that his investigation he thinks is going to take a year and half. Is that going to be distracting for you and why do you think it's going to take so long?

THE PRESIDENT: Because most of it has nothing to do with me. Keep in mind what they did -- I mean, this decision which many called for is going to cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, because what they did was to shut down the investigation that was ongoing of the S&L issues down there, which I have nothing to do with, and submerged it all in there. So it may take a good while because they have to go over all that ground. But I have really nothing to do with it, and they'll have to do whatever they're going to do in whatever time they're going to do it.

The reason I thought it was a good idea to do the special counsel was so I wouldn't have to fool with it anymore, and I'm not spending any time on it.

Q We see your lawyer coming in and out of here quite frequently. Are you meeting with him about this?

THE PRESIDENT: I talked to him yesterday. But he basically just gives us a regular update, oh, every few weeks.

Q Mr. President, are you contemplating taxing food stamps and the poor people to support your welfare plan?


Q Mr. President, have you prepared the American people psychologically for the possibility of military conflict Monday?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I have done my best to talk about this, and we'll continue to talk about it as we get closer. I think the most important thing now is that the Serbs and others in Bosnia understand that the NATO allies are dead serious about carrying this out, but that if the Serbs will move their weapons or put them under United Nations control, there will be no air strikes, and that we want to do what we can to get a permanent long-term peace agreement. That's what we're really working for.

The American people, I think, understand what is at stake here and understand our interest in not permitting Sarajevo to be shelled and hundreds of thousands of people's lives to be destroyed and in working for a peaceful agreement.

I have not committed ground troops to this conflict. I have said that we will participate in NATO air strikes, and I think it is the right thing to do. But I hope the air strikes will not be necessary, and they will not occur if the Serbs will comply.

Thank you.

END11:07 A.M. EST