George Bush photo

Remarks at Octoberfest in Painesville, Ohio

September 05, 1992

Thank you all. What a great turnout. Thank you so very much. Thank you. Thank you very much, Mike. Thank you, Mike DeWine, our next United States Senator. Thank you very, very much for that welcome. Barbara and I are thrilled to be with you, glad to be with you and Fran. It's good to see Bob Bennett, our chairman; national committeewoman Martha Moore over here; and Bob Gardner, who's running for Congress. We want to see him elected. He's sitting over there. Of course, a very special thanks to the Bencics. I'll tell you, what great hosts they are, Steve, Gretel, Martin, Carl, Edith, and Linda. What a wonderful family. When I talk about family values I think of their discipline, their love of country, and their hard work.

I bring greetings today from your Governor and from my very good friend, George Voinovich. What an outstanding Governor you have. He understands this country. You know, Steve told me that this is the first time that the Governor has missed this event since 1966; and the only reason he did it, because he's on a trade mission to Southeast Asia. He's opening up new markets for Ohio goods, and that means creating jobs for Ohio workers. I know he's going to miss all his bratwurst. I'm sure egg rolls taste great, but you can't put syrup on egg rolls. And Voinovich will find that out.

Now, I don't know whether you all got to do what Barbara and I did, but I hope you've all seen Gretel's cake. But you may not know the story behind this enormous cake. I don't want to give away her age, but 50 years ago when she was a little girl, the war in Europe separated her from her mother. The Red Cross came to Gretel's rescue, so today she's returning the favor. Everyone who eats a piece of that cake is contributing food to help the people of south Florida and Louisiana. That is the American spirit, and Gretel, we're very grateful to you.

While we're talking about the tragedy in the south, I want to salute today the contingents of Ohio's finest: the Ohio National Guard 179th Airlift Group, back from their mission of mercy to south Florida, one military person down there helping family after family. It is a wonderful concept, and we're proud of them all. Some of them served in that Desert Storm, too, and they did a first-class job there, believe me. And the country has not forgotten.

So, in summary, it's great to be here in Painesville to help open up this year's Octoberfest. You've got the four basic food groups: pancakes and syrup, bratwurst and beer; and not one stick of broccoli anywhere in sight. This is a first-class -- --

Well, this celebration has always been a celebration of cultures, but this year, in a very special way, it's a celebration of the spirit. We've witnessed a world of change. Across Europe, across continents, from Panama City to Prague, millions of men and women now celebrate a new birth of freedom.

In Germany -- and I think of that because of my friendship with Steve -- and in Germany a wall has fallen. We should take great pride in knowing that the German people give us, the United States, great credit for standing up for their unity, for reunification of Germany, and for their freedom. We should be proud of that. For the people here today, people who came to America from the old country, who prayed for this day to come, the change we've witnessed, this change we've worked for, is a miracle come true.

There are those, to quote the poet, who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American dream. The American dream led to so much of this freedom around the world. Today, our challenge is to bring that spirit home, and Mike DeWine said, home from the towns your parents and grandparents were born in to this new world we call America, and to focus this great Nation on the new mission at hand.

I know the main attraction this morning is pancakes -- [laughter] -- not politics. I salute not only the Republicans that are here, but I know there are many, many Democrats with us, and I'm very proud and pleased about that. But today I want to -- and I've got to admit something, with the enthusiasm of this welcome, the temptation is for me to get up here and tear into the Governor of Arkansas, which I've got to do from time to time. But today, and I hope you'll bear with me, I want to just take a few minutes to talk to you about a serious matter, something I hope you'll be thinking about as you go into that voting booth on November 3d, about the way we can change America's health care.

So this isn't a rally speech. I want to talk to you, a little substance, on health care. I want to tell you first a story, a story about the McNally family from Dorset, Ohio. I first learned about them when Tiffany McNally wrote me at the White House 2 years ago. Four members of Tiffany's family have a rare blood disease, and Tiffany, who is adopted, was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Now, what if Mr. McNally were laid off, or worse still, lost his job? Or what if he found a better job, but the catch was no new health insurer would carry him or his family? He'd have to stay put and let that opportunity pass him by.

Well, that is wrong. That's why we have to change the health care system in America. Health care reform isn't just about studies and cold statistics. It's about real worries and real lives. We have the answers to those worries.

Let's face it, the problem is not the quality of health care. American health care is number one in the entire world. Since 1980, every life expectancy is up; infant mortality is down; death rates from heart disease down; deaths from stroke down. Right now, 200 million Americans have access to quality care system.

But that high quality, high-tech medical care comes at an unacceptable price: An estimated 30 million Americans have no insurance at all, and millions more, like the McNallys, are afraid to change jobs for fear of losing the health insurance that they've got. All told, America's health care now tops $800 billion a year, and the cost is rising 2 to 3 times the rate of inflation. That's why health care reform is a key part of my agenda for economic security for every family in this country.

This year, you watch, health care is going to be a Republican issue. We have a good program. My Democratic opponents are divided between two bad programs, both of which would put Government in charge of health care.

The fact is we can reform the system without pushing our economy into intensive care. We must build on the strengths of the system that's given us the highest quality care in the world, on consumer choice, on innovation and state-of-the-art medicine, while controlling costs and expanding access. We need an efficient health care system built on competition to control costs, not Government control and rationing care. Above all, we need a health care system that gives all Americans real security, security that you can count on, the coverage you need. My plan meets every single one of these objectives.

We can make health care more accessible by making health insurance more affordable. Take a family of two parents and two kids. Let's say the family's income, the total income is $13,000. They're working hard to make ends meet: low enough to put them at the poverty line, high enough to make them ineligible for Medicaid. Right now, that family may fall through the cracks, may not be covered through work, and may not be able to afford any health care coverage at all. Under my plan, that would change. This family would get a $3,750 health care credit, payable to the health care insurer of their choice.

For middle-income individuals and families, all the way up to those making $80,000, my plan provides a health insurance tax credit or deduction that will ease the burden of health insurance costs.

All told, this plan will bring health care coverage to almost 30 million uninsured Americans and new help to nearly 95 million Americans that are struggling to meet health care's runaway costs.

My plan provides security to families like the McNallys and then others that are caught up in what health care experts call "job lock," the fear that because of what they call preexisting medical conditions, changing jobs will cost you and your family your health insurance. We're going to change all of that.

My plan cuts runaway costs by making the system more efficient. And the key is something we call health insurance networks, pooling together individuals and businesses that too often can't afford to offer health insurance to their workers or that worry that one worker's illness or accident could drive everyone else's health insurance right through the roof. Insurance costs obey the law of large numbers: the larger the group being insured, the lower the cost per individual; the broader the risk is spread, the lower the administrative overhead.

We're also going to cut health care costs by wringing out waste and excess in the present system. That's why we have targeted malpractice insurance for reform. You know this, and I know it, and every American knows it: High malpractice premiums mean higher doctors' bills, expensive, unnecessary tests, higher hospital costs, costs passed along not only to the patient but to every American taxpayer. Last year alone, legal costs inflated our doctors' bills by $20 billion. You shouldn't have to pay a lawyer when you go to the doctor.

When health care costs total more than what we spend on our kids' education and our country's national defense combined -- education and defense combined, health care costing more -- even small changes can save us billions. If we made all the changes I've talked about, my plan would save nearly $400 billion in the next 4 years.

I listen to the American people, and you want to know you've got insurance you can count on. I don't hear you calling for higher taxes to finance a Government takeover of our hospitals. I will never approve such a program.

Yet that is exactly what some of my opponents want, to nationalize our health care system: put Government in control; let Government fix the prices; let Government ration the kind of care that people get and how much, what kind and when they'll get it. Go the Government route, and you know what we'll get: our health care system that combines the efficiency of the House of Representatives post office with the compassion of the KGB over there in Moscow.

You know, we probably have to stop using that comparison. That comparison made a few people hot under the collar. I even got one letter from Russia telling me, "Quit running down the KGB." [Laughter]

Nationalize health care, and here's what we're in for: long waiting lines, lists for surgery, shortages of the high-tech equipment responsible for so many of the miracles of modern medicine. One example: Right now -- you've got great facilities in Cleveland -- but right now the Cleveland Clinic performs 10 coronary bypass surgeries -- I see we've got a doctor from the clinic over here. [Laughter] Well, that's great. They perform 10 bypass surgeries a day; high tech, high quality, special, excellent surgery without any wait. But if you live across Lake Erie in Canada, the wait for coronary bypass surgery is up to 6 months. And that's not the kind of system that America wants or America needs.

Then there's the cost. According to some studies, nationalized health care would mean a whopping $250 billion to $500 billion a year in new taxes. But you won't hear about higher taxes from the folks that are pushing that scheme. Just ask them about some of the side effects of their plan, and they just say, "Take two aspirin; call me after the election." [Laughter]

Well, this is what this election is about: who's got the good ideas, and who's got some lousy ones. We've the right ideas on health care. They have the wrong ones.

My opponent backs a plan that goes by a different name, but in the end it takes you to the same place, nationalized health care. It's called "play or pay." Listen for that one during the fall, "play or pay." Here's what it means: Each employer must "play," meaning shell out for insurance for employees, or "pay," extract a payroll tax to finance Government health coverage.

"Play or pay" will leave a lot of small businesses, those we are counting on to lead the recovery we need so desperately, with two crummy options: cut workers' wages to pay for mandated health care, or fire some workers and use the savings to cover the rest. According to an independent Urban Institute study, the "pay" part of this plan is no playground. It will require at least a 7-percent payroll tax. Now you small-business people here, you that have your sleeves rolled up running a restaurant or running a neighborhood store of some kind, think about that one.

According to estimates, that kind of tax will cost this country 700,000 jobs. For an employee earning $24,000 a year say, that payroll tax would mean $1,700 chopped right out of his paycheck. Higher prices, lower wages, lost job: Any way you look at it, that is the wrong prescription for America.

So in the end, this "play or pay" is no different from nationalized health care. I'm tempted to call it "pay and pay and pay again." It's an open invitation for employers to stop offering health benefits, throw the problem in the Government's lap, and dump millions of Americans that are working into a public plan like Medicaid.

Right now, the cost of health care eats up 13 percent of all the goods and services that we produce. Do you really want to turn another huge chunk of our economy over to the Government? We can't afford to saddle ourselves with a health care cure that's worse than the disease, especially when we have a much better alternative.

Now you can see why I believe health care is going to be a Republican issue this year. My opponent just isn't up to the mark on health care. A major newspaper that I don't quote too often these days, the New York Times -- [laughter] -- described Bill Clinton's attention to health care issues as, I quote, "occasional." It's no surprise why. After having Governor Clinton for 12 years, one in four folks in Arkansas don't even have health insurance. Bill Clinton has promised he'll do for America what he's done for Arkansas. And my question is: Why would we let him?

I want to start our program that's been sitting up on Capitol Hill for a while moving forward. Move forward on health reform. And Congress comes back from what they call a work period -- they've been on vacation for a month and a half -- next Tuesday. My opponents are divided. Even they know their proposals won't work. And I say, let Congress start by passing my small-business health care reforms to bring affordable, quality health care to millions of Americans who don't have it now. Make it a Labor Day present to the American worker and to the American family and get off your backsides and do something about it.

If you think I'm a little frustrated with this gridlocked Congress, you are right. We ought to clean House.

On this Labor Day weekend, we should remember what Jefferson called "the sum of good government," whether it respected the right of each one of us. Thomas Jefferson said, and I quote, ". . . a wise and frugal government . . . shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread that it has earned." In Jefferson's day, doctors made house calls on horseback and life was short. Today, we have miracle medicines that can pluck us from death's door. But all this is of no matter if we can't afford it, not if it is reserved only for the privileged or the prosperous, not if it bankrupts the families of America. We must not take from the mouth of labor the bread that you have earned. We must fix the health care system of America.

Once again, let me say I hope this hasn't been too long and too specific, but this strikes at the core and the well-being of every single family in America. There is no better place to talk about family and family values than it is right here with Steve and Gretel. To all of you, my thanks for this warm Ohio welcome. May God bless the greatest, freest country on the face of the Earth, the United States of America. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 10 a.m. at the Lake County fairgrounds. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George Bush, Remarks at Octoberfest in Painesville, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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