Radio Address of the President to the Nation - October 7, 2000


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release Saturday, October 7, 2000


The East Room

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THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Every year, more than 56,000 Americans die from colorectal cancer, and another 130,000 are diagnosed with the disease. These are people we know and love: our families, friends and neighbors. Today I want to talk about our common fight against this quiet killer, and what we can do as a nation to save more lives.

Many people are uncomfortable talking about cancer, especially colorectal cancer. And while all of us may be able to appreciate this reluctance, our silence protects no one -- least of all those we love most. That's why so many Americans, tens of thousands of them, led by Katie Couric, have come to Washington this weekend to speak out and rally against colorectal cancer.

For eight years now, the Vice President and I have made the fight against cancer one of our top priorities, nearly doubling funding for cancer research and treatment. We've also accelerated the approval of cancer drugs, while maintaining the highest standards of safety. We've strengthened Medicare to make prevention, screening and clinical trials more available and more affordable. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Senate voted to fund our proposal to provide health coverage to uninsured women with breast and cervical cancer.

These efforts are paying off. Earlier this year, we learned for the first time that cancer deaths in the United States are no longer rising. We need to build on that progress by encouraging more early detection and treatment. Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer killer in America. The good new is that caught soon enough, more than 90 percent of the cases can be cured. That's why, in 1998, Hillary helped to launch the first national campaign against colorectal cancer, much as we've been working for years to defeat breast cancer.

Our family, like so many American families, knows all too well the terrible toll cancer can take, and we want to do everything we can to help others avoid that loss. Today, I'm announcing several new actions in the war against cancer. First, the National Cancer Institute will invest $30 million over the next five years to help doctors expand and improve screening procedures for colorectal cancer. We need to address the chronic under use of these life saving tools, and this new investment will encourage physicians to make regular use of the most effective procedures.

Second, we're launching a new initiative to educate Medicare beneficiaries about the importance of regular checkups and cancer screenings. Beginning next year, every senior and every American with a disability using Medicare will get a screening reminder, starting with one on colorectal cancer, every time they go to their doctor, or use Medicare's toll free hotline.

Third, I'm urging Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that expands Medicare to include more sophisticated colorectal cancer screening tests for people over the age of 50. Congress should not adjourn before sending me this legislation. They should also pass my proposal to eliminate all cost-sharing requirements for colorectal screening and other preventive procedures under Medicare. If we take these steps, we'll remove major barriers to older Americans getting the preventive care they need.

And, finally, once again, I ask Congress to pass a strong, enforceable patients' bill of rights, one that ensures that cancer patients, along with all patients, have access to the specialty care they need. It's time to put progress before partisanship, and get people the medical care they need and deserve.

While the war against cancer is not yet won, we all have reason for new hope. Even as I speak, scientists are fast unlocking the secrets of the human genome, and revolutionary treatments are sure to follow. As they do, Americans should know that we'll do everything necessary to safeguard their privacy, and to outlaw genetic discrimination in both employment and health insurance.

In the meantime, we must all stand watch against cancer, even if that means confronting at times, our worst fears. None of us will ever die of embarrassment, so go to the doctor, and get that screening done. Remember, with early detection, quality care, love from our families and the grace of God, we can all lead longer, healthier and better lives.

Thank you.

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