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The President's Radio Address

February 05, 2000

Good morning. Today I want to talk about what we can and must do to help more women get the lifesaving treatment they need to fight breast and cervical cancer. More than 180,000 American women will be diagnosed with these diseases this year. Each of us has a sister, a daughter, a friend, or in my case, a mother, who has struggled against them.

These cancers can be treated and cured, if we catch them early and fight them aggressively. But more than 40,000 women will die from breast and cervical cancer this year. Many are women whose cancer was detected or treated too late because they had no health insurance and no hope of paying for treatment. In fact, older women with breast cancer are 40 percent more likely to die from the disease if they're uninsured.

With strong leadership from the First Lady, we've worked hard over the past 7 years to increase free and low-cost cancer screenings and to help women catch these diseases in time. We've expanded the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program to serve hundreds of thousands of women a year in all 50 States. And Vice President Gore has led us to make a dramatic increase in our commitment to cancer research and treatment. But still it's true that, every year, thousands of women are told they have cancer and must cope without insurance.

This is especially troubling, given the stunning progress scientists are making in the fight against cancer. Researchers now can identify genes that predict several kinds of cancers. They're experimenting with therapies that will shut down defective genes so they can never multiply and grow. New drugs and new combinations of drugs will bring hope to those whose cancer has spread or who suffer from the side effects of chemotherapy.

These breakthroughs will make a big difference for some of our most prevalent cancers, like breast cancer, which strikes one in eight American women over a lifetime. But these lifesaving new therapies can only help if patients have insurance or other resources that enable them to afford state-of-the-art treatment or any treatment at all.

At a time when we know more about cancer than ever and can fight it better than ever, we must not leave women to face cancer alone. That's why today I'm announcing a proposal to help States eliminate the barriers low income women face to getting treatment for breast or cervical cancer. The budget I'm sending to Congress on Monday will allow States to provide full Medicaid benefits to uninsured women whose cancers are detected through federally funded screening programs. Too often, uninsured women face a patchwork of care, inadequate care, or no care at all. Many are denied newer, better forms of treatment or wait months to see a doctor.

Judy Lewis was one of the lucky ones. When a screening program detected her breast cancer, she had no health insurance and no money to spare. Fortunately, she found doctors who would treat her, and 17 months later, she's cancerfree. But she and her husband are also $28,000 in debt, with nothing left for their retirement. That is wrong, and it doesn't have to happen.

This initiative will help women get comprehensive treatment and get it right away. It will make state-of-the-art therapies available to women who need them, not just those who can afford them. And it will free State and Federal dollars to be spent on cancer screening and outreach to women at risk.

This proposal has strong bipartisan support in Congress, led by Senators Barbara Mikulski and Olympia Snowe and Representatives Anna Eshoo and Rick Lazio. It was also strongly supported by the late Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island.

These Senators and Representatives from both parties have put forward legislation to meet our goal, and my budget includes the funds to make it happen. This is an issue that transcends political boundaries, because it touches all of us. Together, we can save lives and bring medical miracles of our time within the reach of every American. We can do it this year, and we ought to do it soon.

Thanks for listening.

NOTE: The address was recorded at 1:43 p.m. on February 4 in the Oval Office at the White House for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on February 5. The transcript was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on February 4 but was embargoed for release until the broadcast.

William J. Clinton, The President's Radio Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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