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Special Event

Vice Pres. Al Gore Delivers Remarks on Affordable Health Care for Children

Aired August 29, 2000 - 2:39 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Now we turn our attention to Al Gore. His focus today, children's health. He is speaking now in Rio Bravo Park in Albuquerque. We're going to listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll be talking about the need for a patients' bill of rights to take the medical decisions away from the bean counters who work for the HMOs and the insurance companies and give the decisions back to the doctors and the nurses, and the health care professionals, the people who have the expertise to make those decisions.

(APPLAUSE)

But today, I want to talk about how we can get to universal health care, step-by-step, starting with every child in America in the next four years. We need to cover every single child within this next presidential term.

(APPLAUSE)

And with your help, we will do this.

(SPEAKING IN SPANISH)

And for all of the families in this South Valley, whether you come from an Indian family, whether you consider yourselves Chicano, Spanish, Mexican, Hispanic, Anglo, whatever, African-American, whatever you consider yourselves you're an American, you live here, you are part of our nation, and every single child and every family ought to have health care -- good, high-quality health care -- every child.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, here is how I propose to do it: by making it a top priority and by refusing to go along with a proposal to squander the entire budget surplus on a giant tax cut for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class that stops our prosperity and progress; and instead, using the surplus to invest in people, balance the budget, keep paying down the national debt, keep our prosperity going and make sure that we invest in education, health care, a secure retirement, and the kind of quality of life that people here in the South Valley and in all parts of America, have a right to expect.

Now we have a beginning for the effort to ensure every child. It's called the CHIP program, the Child Health Insurance Program. But it doesn't go as far as it should.

I want to the expand it dramatically. I want to make a commitment to every child, and then raise the eligibility levels for that CHIP program to two and a half times the poverty rate. And all families under that level, will be able to get health insurance for the parents of the children, as well as just the children, so that the entire family can receive coverage.

(APPLAUSE)

And those above 250 percent of the poverty rate will be able to buy into the program with affordable premiums.

Now right now, what you have is a very uneven situation state-by- state. In some states -- and incidentally I want to thank those who had that hot air balloon up and going at the beginning of this event. Tipper came out for the great balloon festival and went up in a balloon a few months ago. And it's one thing that all of us associate with Albuquerque, and I appreciate that.

Now, right now, in America, there are many states that put up barriers to participation in this child health program, because it's a partnership between the national government and each state government, and some states don't really want to put their own money into the program. And so they make it difficult for families to participate, and they erect road blocks and barriers that require regular renewal of eligibility. Some states require you to come in and have a face- to-face meetings like it was a job interview instead of just getting health care for children. A lot of states make it very difficult, to the point where millions of children who are eligible today, don't get what they're eligible to receive.

We need to change that. We need to make these children presumptively eligible. In other words, we should assume that they're covered until it's established that they're not covered. And we should prevent states from requiring a recertification every six months or so.

I think that once we cover every child and the parents of those children up to two and a half times the poverty rate, we will be much closer to having universal health insurance for all of our people. We can't get everyone at the same time. We need to build on the strengths of the system that we now have and fill in the gaps. And that's what we are going to do.

Now, I asked a number of families who have had experience...

WATERS: That's Al Gore. He's at Rio Bravo Park in Albuquerque talking about mainly health insurance for every child in America, one of the promises in his campaign. The vice president sounding a little horse today, speaking as he has been each day of the week on his focus, which is health care. Now under Mr. Gore's health care proposal, an existing child health program will be extended with $100 billion in new spending over 10 years. Mr. Gore would allow families who earn 250 percent of the federal poverty level to be eligible for a program of subsidized health insurance for children.

We'll be hearing more about that. We'll be hearing about the Bush health care proposals. We'll be hearing it all in the days to come.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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