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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 13, 1998
                             March 13, 1998

Today, the President accepted the final report from his Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality. The report calls for a health quality council to develop unprecedented national quality improvement goals and a privately-administered forum to develop new tools to empower consumers and businesses to purchase quality health care. The President praised the Commission's work and endorsed its new recommendations for a national effort to improve quality throughout the health care system.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans each year are injured and even die from avoidable medical errors in the health care system, and millions more receive unnecessary services or substandard care that cause needless health complications and increase health care costs. Establishing uniform standards will help ensure that health plans finally begin to compete on the basis of quality -- not just costs and benefits.

To implement these new recommendations, the President also issued an Executive Memorandum that directs five Federal agencies to establish immediately an interagency task force to ensure the Federal government takes the lead on improving health care quality. The President also asked the Vice President to hold a blue ribbon planning meeting this June, to kick off the work of the health care forum recommended by the Quality Commission.

The President created the 34-member Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry on March 26, 1997, charging it with "recommend[ing]" such measures as may be necessary to promote and assure quality and value and protect consumers in the health care industry. In November, the Commission recommended to the President a "Consumer Bill of Rights." The President endorsed these protections and directed the Federal Government to come into compliance with this bill of rights and called on Congress to pass legislation to make these protections real for all Americans.

NUMEROUS INCONSISTENCIES AND AVOIDABLE ERRORS IN THE NATION'S HEALTH CARE SYSTEM COST LIVES AND UNDERMINE HEALTH. Too many Americans receive substandard health care, causing avoidable injuries and death, needless complications, and increased health care costs, including:

     Avoidable errors:  Hundreds of thousands of Americans are injured 
     each year with tens of thousands dying as a result of avoidable 
     errors in hospital care.

     Underutilization of services:  Millions of Americans do not 
     receive necessary care and suffer needless complications that can 
     add to health care costs.  For example, far too many Americans do 
     not get the preventive care they need.     

     Overuse of services:  Others receive unnecessary health care that 
     can increase costs and even endanger a patient's health.  For 
     example, 80,000 women every year undergo unnecessary 

     Wide variation in health care quality:  There is tremendous 
     variation in health care services including wide regional 
     disparities and different hospitalization rates for similar 

ENDORSED COMMISSION'S NEW RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPROVE QUALITY HEALTH CARE. The President endorsed the Commission's recommendations which call for:

Creating an Advisory Council for Health Care Quality. This public advisory panel would establish, for the first time, national goals to improve health care quality and develop strategies to achieve them. The Council would emphasize areas such as ensuring consumers have access to clear information to make decisions about health plans and professionals, identifying strategies to reduce avoidable medical errors, reducing variation in health care services, and promoting evidence-based medicine. Such a council, which would include representatives from both the public and private sector, would make an annual report to Congress on the nation's progress in improving health care quality.

Creating a Health Care Forum and Asking the Vice President to Hold the First Planning Meeting This June. The absence of uniform quality standards means that consumers do not have the necessary information to choose health plans based on quality. The forum would bring together the public and private sectors to identify a core set of measures to be adopted by health plans across the country. This would ensure that, for the first time, consumers have a consistent set of standards so they can choose health plans based on quality -- not just on cost. The President asked the Vice President to hold a blue ribbon planning meeting this June to kick off the work of the health quality forum as recommended by the Commission.

ISSUED A PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM DIRECTING AGENCIES TO DEVELOP A FEDERAL TASK FORCE TO COORDINATE AND IMPROVE HEALTH QUALITY. The President directed the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Veterans Affairs, Defense, and the Office of Personnel Management to establish the "Quality Interagency Coordination" (QuIC) task force. He directed this task force to ensure better collaboration and coordination across the Federal government, through initiatives such as developing consistent goals, models, and timetables; sharing information about evidence-based medical research and quality outcomes, and coordinating Federal programs' quality reporting and compliance requirements.

RENEWED HIS CALL ON CONGRESS TO PASS A PATIENTS' BILL OF RIGHTS THIS YEAR. Following his speech earlier in the week to the American Medical Association, the President urged Congress to step up its efforts to pass a Patients' Bill of Rights this year. He also asked Congress to ensure that the Patients' Bill of Rights includes the health care quality council the endorsed today. With fewer than 70 working days in this legislative session, the President urged Congress not to adjourn without passing a Patients' Bill of Rights that includes important protections for patients such as: access to the specialists they need, access to emergency room services, and an external appeals process to address grievances with their health plans.