Mr. Vice President, Secretary Gardner, Chairman Staggers, Members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen:
As President there is nothing that I enjoy doing more than coming here to the East Room and signing health bills.
First, I think it is somewhat of a recognition and a compliment to the Congress for having passed them. And having spent so many years in Congress, I look for every opportunity I can, in good conscience, to compliment them.
This is the second health bill that I have signed this week. That makes me very proud and I think this is something that will make the American people very happy.
This is the 31st health bill that I have signed in the last 4 years. I think that is of some significance because it shows what we are thinking about in this country and it shows what we are doing about it.
The bill that we will sign shortly is a little different from some of the others that we have had. Its purpose is not to create a new program, but to try to consolidate some old ones. It gives our States and it gives our communities new power to mount a total war against sickness and against disease-and they need that power.
Some 2 years ago a noted medical researcher said: "The human body comes in only two shapes and only three colors. I don't expect there are going to be any changes .... "
But even if the human body is quite limited in both shape and color, the human body has also unlimited capacity for affliction. As medical science has discovered more and more of the new ways to cure the body's ills, the Federal Government has responded with more and more health programs, as the number of these measures has indicated-each with a pinpointed target, each valid and each valuable for its own purpose. But the result, after dozens and dozens of health bills enacted in a relatively short period-more health bills have been enacted in the last 4 years than all the preceding years of our Government put together--the result has been a programmatic and bureaucratic nightmare that we frankly must face up to.
So, in this partnership for health measure, we begin to try to cure some of this red tape. We begin to free the Public Health Service from the burden of paperwork so it can fight a more important battle, the battle against disease.
This bill contains a three-part strategy to help them fight that battle against diseases:
First, it offers assistance to States and communities to develop broad-based plans for health. We give them that obligation and that responsibility and call upon them to do their planning.
Second, as quickly as these plans are ready, it provides Federal funds to help carry out these local plans.
Third, it establishes a national program for research and development in health services. Even as we discover new ways to cure disease, we are testing better ways to bring these cures to the people.
So the bill that we will sign contains two significant proposals:
It opens the way to strict Federal and State standards for clinical laboratories. It will help rid the patient of the needless anguish of tests be has had to undergo that might be faulty. We do know from recent studies that as many as one out of four tests performed by some laboratories have been wrong tests.
This bill also deals with a subject that you have heard about and read about and some people have laughed about--the subject of rats.
Throughout history, rats have been the prime delivery system for our filth and for the worst diseases that human beings have. To little children in the slums, rats have really been the public enemy No. 1
And some people--some important people--I am told--thought it was a joke when we sent up the rat control bill a few months earlier. Some joked about it.
The bill we are signing today shows that the American people are not laughing about it. And it shows that the Congress and the country were listening.
Now it is the turn of State and community leaders to listen. Now it is time for the health officers to show that by this partnership we mean business.
This is the second consumer bill that I have signed this year. We still have 10 to go: truth-in-ending, pipeline safety, flammable fabrics and wholesome meat.
I had some encouraging words a few moments ago about that.
This wholesome meat bill can relieve every American family from the fear that every frankfurter and hamburger they give their children could be rancid or have something wrong with it.
So, I thank the Congress for what you have brought me to sign and I invite you to give me other work to do.