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Gore Addresses Rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Aired October 28, 2000 - 9:36 a.m. ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're actually going to right to Gore, who's about to address a crowd in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He's at a rally there.

Let's listen in.

AL GORE, VICE PRESDIENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, John. Thank you, my friends. Thank you very much.

It's great to be here at Wilkes University with so many of the talented doctors and nurses and pharmacy and health professionals who make American health care the best in the world. I want to thank John Posha (ph), who is the student body president, who just introduced me. I was very impressed with our conversation earlier. I know he has a very bright future.

I also want to thank the president of Wilkes University, Christopher Braiseth (ph) and Mrs. Braiseth, thank you for the hospitality here this morning, and to all the distinguished guests, especially my long-time friend Congressman Paul Kanjorski (ph). We have worked together for so long. He's a great man. You are truly fortunate to have such fine representation in the Congress, and I'll tell you, I've worked with them all, and I know you're very proud, and you should be.

I also want to thank one of the most energetic and dedicated mayors I've ever known, Mayor Tom McGrorty (ph) of Wilkes-Barre, and here with his daughter, who's planning her Halloween costume, and we talked about that earlier. And she was in a debate at her school, where she was me. And I asked her if she won the debate, and she said, "I don't know yet." And I said, "Well, I don't know yet either."

But I feel good about it, and especially here in Pennsylvania.

Just 10 days from now, America faces a big choice about the future, one of the biggest choices we've faced in half a century. Earlier this week, in -- as part of this series of major policy speeches every day for the last days of this campaign, I talked about that big choice in economic terms, about why it's so essential to balance the budget instead of breaking it, why it's so important to make government smaller and smarter to pay down the debt, and then pay off the debt so it's not on the burdens of these children, instead of opening a brand-new era of big deficits, big debt, and big tax cuts aimed at the wealthiest 1 percent.

Sometimes we have to be willing to choose even when the choice is the hard right over the easy wrong, especially when that's the choice. We have to make the right decisions, the sometimes difficult decisions in economic policy to balance our budget every year, and make sure that we have a prosperity that enriches all of our families and not just the few.

Well, there's another big choice that we'll make in this election, and it's a choice not only about the strength and purpose of our prosperity, but about the character of our society. Today in America, there are tens of millions of families shut out of the quality health care that they've already paid for, because their HMOs and insurance companies are trying to cut corners by denying them the treatments they need, even though they've paid their premiums faithfully every single month.

In this election, we can change that, and we have to, because when your doctor makes the decision, no young clerk sitting behind a computer terminal in an office hundreds of miles away has the right, or should have the right, to overrule the medical decisions that have been made by your doctor. We need to give the decisions back to the doctors and the nurses and the health care professionals.

Today in America, there are millions of seniors who cannot possibly afford all the prescription drugs their doctor has prescribed for them. In this election, we can change that, and we have to, because no senior citizen should ever have to choose between one essential medicine and another. And that choice is being made on a daily basis today. No senior citizen should ever have to decide between skipping their pills and skipping their meals. And that choice is being made every day in America.

Today in America, there are simply too many hard-working parents who struggle just to afford a child's medical checkup and can't even think about buying health coverage for themselves. In this election, we can change that, and we have to, because no father or mother in the United States of America should ever be denied the chance to provide decent health care for the child that they love.

We need to change that in this election.

I've come here today to say that this issue is fundamental, that America can no more afford to leave families and patients powerless and broke than we can afford to open up huge new budget deficits, weakening our economy and threatening our standards of life. I've come here today to say that the choice and the power ought to be in your hands, not in the hands of the HMOs and the insurance companies.

I pledge, I pledge to you today, as president I will fight for real and comprehensive change to our health care system, to empower families and doctors and open a new era of hope and health all across America.

Let's expand coverage and create a health care system that reflects our values, one that helps families raise healthy children and helps them care for aging or disabled loved ones.

Look, there has never been a time of greater promise in American medicine. Within the next few years, scientists will identify the genes that cause every single type of cancer. We're on the verge of groundbreaking new treatments and therapies for everything from diabetes to osteoporosis and cancer to HIV/AIDS. In this time of remarkable medical breakthroughs, we must have a national commitment equal to the promise of this unequaled moment.

So let's decide, in this election, that we are going to double the federal investment in medical research to get these cures found and make them available to the men and women and children and families who are waiting for them.

Let's move to the day also when once and for all, we end the stigma associated with mental illness, and treat mental illness just like every other illness everywhere in this nation, get the help to those who are desperately needing it.

And let's work to make the promise of health care a reality for all of our families, not by expanding bureaucracy and federal mandates, but by expanding the choices that families have in our health care system, building on what's right and changing what's wrong.

And the health professionals here today can testify that there is a lot that is right with American health care. Millions of Americans value their health coverage, and they want to keep it. And in the past eight years, we have made some important progress, there's no doubt. For example, we have been able to pass the first stage of health care for children. Now, 2.5 million more children have health coverage in this country. But obviously we have a lot more to do.

And in the next 10 days, you will decide whether we do it or not. Make no mistake about it, there is a very clear choice on health care in this election.

My goal is to empower families so that you have more choices and more control. The other side wants to leave families to the tender mercies of the big, impersonal bureaucracies. And if you ask me, that's no choice at all. I believe that we need a strong patient's bill of rights to take the medical decisions away from the HMO and insurance company bean counters and give those decisions back to the doctors and the nurses and the health care professionals.

That's the only right thing to do.

Now, here is the first thing that you need to know about my HMO reform plan. The HMOs and the insurance companies are against it. They support my opponent, and he supports their plan. There may be a connection between those two things.

And here's the second thing that you need to know about my HMO reform plan. The doctors and nurses and pharmacists want to see it passed into law, and they want to see it made the law of our land. I'm pleased that we have with us here today at Wilkes University Dr. Rodney G. Hood, who is president of the National Medical Association and the president elect, Lucy Perez (ph), I appreciate both of them being here, and I appreciate the support of...

PHILLIPS: Vice President Al Gore on the campaign trail. You've been watching live coverage of a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he's been talking about health care issues, specifically his HMO reform plan and prescription drugs for seniors.



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