THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON ARRIVAL AT THE LONGWORTH BUILDING
The Longworth Building Washington, D.C
1:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Let me say that I'm looking forward to this opportunity to meet with the House Democratic Caucus to talk about the work that we have ahead of us. But before I do, I would like to make one particular point. Of all the issues before us, I would very much like to see the Congress take up and pass a good, clean version of the Kennedy-Kassebaum health care reform bill in the next few days.
Senator Dole has said that he will be leaving the Senate soon, and I respect that decision. But this is one issue that he and I agree on. He very much wants this bill to pass in a good form that I can sign. And I just want to say to him and to all of you that I'm prepared to do whatever it takes in the next few days to meet with him, do whatever I can, and meet with other Republicans to try to get the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill passed before he leaves the Senate. I think that is something we ought to do for the American people. I know it would mean a lot to him. It would certainly mean a lot to me. And I'm very hopeful that we can prevail in getting that done.
Q Mr. President, the Medicare trustees are reporting today that there was one less year of solvency than originally expected. You have said in the past this should be put off until after the election. Do you still feel it should be put off?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no. No, I haven't said -- I'm sorry. Our plan -- and by the way, the savings that have been agreed on already by the Republicans and the Democrats in the balanced budget negotiations would put another decade on the Medicare trust fund. And I think we ought to do that right away. I have always felt that way.
The plan that I detailed last year included Medicare reductions of $270 billion, $170 billion more than the trust fund --the trustees said was necessary to go into the trust fund to stabilize it.
But the differences in our numbers now are not that dramatic, and the amount that we have agreed on in common would add -- would take it out to 10 years, and I think we ought to do that now. I think we ought to -- I've always said we should go on and pass the right kind of balanced budget and do that. We can do that now with no trouble. We have agreed on those things. Providers know they're coming. Everybody understands how they would be managed. And I think we ought to do that. We should not wait.
Q (Inaudible) you all can get together on those. Is that the problem?
THE PRESIDENT: What?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, yes. The problems are, I think, far more than the money involved, is the structure of Medicare. I don't favor breaking the structure of Medicare. I think putting the medical savings account for Medicare payments in would be a particularly bad idea. You know, Medicare has the lowest administrative cost of any health insurance plan in America, private or public. It has done a basically good job. There are more seniors now on the plan than ever before. We have to deal with the population problems that exist now and the ones that are going to exist in the future.
But we have the ability right now to put 10 years into the life of the Medicare trust fund, and we ought to just do it. We ought to just go on and do that. We can do that with no problem, and we can do it in the context of a balanced budget plan.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
END 1:54 P.M. EDT