Clinton urges Americans to vote
CHAPPAQUA, New York (Reuters) -- Saying Americans need to build on the prosperity of the last eight years, U.S. President Bill Clinton urged people on Saturday to exercise their "fundamental American freedom" and vote on Tuesday.
Three days before election day in one of the tightest presidential races in decades, Clinton used his weekly radio address to highlight his administration's achievements and urge voters to cast their ballots to continue the progress.
"How do we keep this remarkable progress going? That's the question America must decide on Tuesday," he said. "Because the best is still out there, waiting for us."
Focusing his remarks heavily on health care, and noting that the Republican-led Congress has not passed a "patient's bill of rights," Clinton announced executive action to extend some protection to millions of insured Americans.
"I am directing the Labor Department to issue final rules within two weeks requiring private health plans covering 130 million Americans to provide a fair and unbiased process for patients to appeal when coverage has been denied or delayed," Clinton said.
"Under this new rule, for the first time, health plans would be required to make coverage decisions quickly, and to provide consumers with reliable information on their rights and benefits," he said.
The White House said under current law, health plans making coverage decisions often do not have medical expertise to make them, and appeals of the decisions can take up to 300 days.
Clinton, who accused the Republican leadership in Congress of bowing to pressure by lobby groups, said the new rule was a step toward protecting Americans but more needed to be done.
"The only way to give every American in every health plan the right to see a specialist, to go to the nearest emergency room, not the cheapest, and to hold healthcare plans accountable when they cause harm, is to pass a real, enforceable patients bill of rights," he said.
"The American people can make sure that will happen by voting on Tuesday."
The rest of Clinton's radio address, like speeches made across the country this past week, was aimed at urging people to get out and vote.
With Democratic candidate Vice President Al Gore locked in a tight battle with Republican George W. Bush for the nation's top job, Democrats are scrambling to ensure a high voter turnout.
"Much is as stake," said Clinton, who will spend the rest of Saturday in New York urging people to vote and stumping for his wife who is running for the Senate from New York.
Clinton told Americans that their votes would decide issues ranging from the economy, Social Security and Medicare, to education reform and an end to hate crimes and racial profiling.
"Your vote will decide whether we strengthen Social Security and Medicare and add an affordable prescription drug benefit to Medicare. Your vote will decide whether we invest in education, in new classrooms and smaller class sizes, in improving teacher quality, and in turning around failing schools.
"With eight years of progress behind us, we know we have the power to build the future of our dreams for our children," he said. "Let's start on Tuesday by going to the polls and exercising our fundamental American freedom."
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