Text of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's remarks as prepared for delivery at the 2004 Republican National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 31:
Ten years ago, on my first day as a senator, my dad, a family doctor in Tennessee for 50 years, paid me a visit.
As we sat in my new office, he said: "Son, the nameplate on your door reads William Frist. Always remember you're a doctor. You're committed to healing and helping people. It really should read, William Frist, M.D."
Well, today the nameplate on the door of my Capitol office reads just that: William Frist, M.D. It's a constant reminder of my dad's advice: to work each day to better the life of every individual American.
And that, my friends, is what President George W. Bush has done -- particularly when it comes to health care.
He has won some huge victories to make health care cost less and be there when you need it.
So, let's talk about what that means for Americans, and what health care in America can become.
Health care is the lifeblood of our future, and it touches every life -- our grandparents, our parents, our children, you.
And when you need it, you want it to be reliable. You want it to be affordable and lifelong. You want it to reflect the dignity and the value of those you love. And you want it to be the best.
Let me remind you, in 2000 -- before someone borrowed his line -- George Bush promised that "help is on the way."
Tonight, America can take comfort that help is here.
Today, unlike when my dad practiced, the most powerful tools in American medicine are prescription drugs.
These medicines help so many get out of bed, pick up their grandchild, walk to the store and find joy in each day. Yet these miracle medicines were denied by Medicare. Well, George Bush has righted that wrong.
Thanks to his leadership, over 40 million seniors and individuals with disabilities will soon have access to prescription drugs.
What's more, prescription drug coverage is the centerpiece of even something bigger: the first real reform of Medicare since its creation. Among the improvements we made are new screenings for heart disease, for diabetes and for cancer, a first ever "Welcome to Medicare" physical exam.
And right now, thanks to the president's action, this Medicare prescription drug discount card is providing 4 million seniors with immediate relief from the high cost of their medicines.
Now some of our opponents don't want seniors to get this card. They don't want seniors to know that our party cut the cost of their medicines. They'd rather play politics than help patients. Don't listen to them. You can get this prescription drug card today. And it's simple. Just call 1-800-MEDICARE. Tell them you want your card. Tell them Dr. Frist prescribed it.
Let me point out that our opponents talked about doing this for eight years. While seniors suffered, they talked and talked and talked. George Bush and the Republican Congress delivered. We acted. Not just talk, action.
This victory for our party, and above all for seniors, is part of a larger battle we're fighting on behalf of every American. How we do so is crucial. Our opponents have a way of confusing compassion with dependency. We believe true compassion encourages and empowers Americans to be responsible and take control of their own lives.
That's what President Bush and the Republican Congress did when we made Health Savings Accounts, HSAs, the law of the land. With an HSA you can invest tax-free in a personal savings account. You can roll it over year to year or withdraw funds if you get sick without paying a penny of tax.
You own it. You invest it. You grow it. You control it. It is yours.
So here's the choice: Do we grow the bureaucracy and gouge you with higher taxes, as Mr. Kerry will do, or do we let the American people grow their own HSAs and own their health care, as George Bush wants to do?
We've made our choice.
But I'll tell you what Senator Kerry's prescription will be: Take a handful of tax increases and don't call me in the morning.
President Bush wouldn't stop with HSAs. Health insurance costs too much. People need help.
President Bush is working for tax credits of up to $1,000 for individuals, and $3,000 for families, to help the uninsured purchase their own health insurance.
And as for small businesses, they're burdened, often crushed, by health care costs.
So what we want to help do is band them together to provide affordable health care for their employees and their families.
Another reason health care costs too much is our abused medical liability system. The culprits are the personal injury trial lawyers.
And we oppose those predators.
We must stop them from twisting American medicine into a litigation lottery where they hit the jackpot and every patient ends up paying.
Let me share a story with you. Two years ago, on a family vacation in Florida, I came across a horrendous car accident as my sons and I drove along Alligator Alley. The accident had just happened.
I rushed forward, as any doctor would do, to help four people thrown from their car and two people trapped inside. Tragically, three children died. But their parents, who were critically injured, and another relative did survive.
The next morning, I went to the hospital to check on the family. The two trauma surgeons who had cared for them pulled me aside. And they said, "Dr. Frist, we may have to leave this hospital, maybe the state, maybe even what we love to do. We just can't afford our liability insurance. And it keeps going up."
Today I checked in with the hospital's chief of staff, Dr. Callari. He said the situation has worsened. Though he has never been sued, his liability insurance has doubled. He couldn't afford it and had to drop it.
Dr. Callari's father and grandfather were both physicians. But he doesn't want his 11- and 12-year-old boys to go into medicine, because everything he has worked for, his savings, his family, his livelihood, is now at risk.
And so are the people of southern Florida. That hospital has the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the region. What if it closes?
This is unacceptable, because in medicine, seconds often mean the difference between life and death.
Let's be clear: You can no longer be both pro-patient and pro-trial lawyer. John Kerry has made his choice. He put a trial lawyer on his ticket.
By his votes and by his actions, he is the "Dr. No" of tort reform in America.
President Bush is fighting this good fight. And in the Senate, where reform has been blocked, we will fight too. We will come back again and again and again until doctors, patients and the American people win.
Before I close, I'd like to touch briefly on stem cell research. Scientists work on two basic types of stem cell research. One is adult, with cells taken, for example, from bone marrow or cartilage. Another uses cells taken from human embryos.
Adult stem cell research has already led to cures. And both fields hold promise. But, contrary to the claims of some, embryonic stem cell research is still at a very early stage. John Kerry claims that the president has put a "sweeping ban" on stem cell research.
I challenge Mr. Kerry tonight: What ban? Shame on you, Mr. Kerry.
Under the president's policy, the federal government is funding both types of stem cell research and at record levels. And the private sector remains free to fund and pursue any type of stem cell research.
The president also has said that we should conduct this research with the highest moral and ethical standards.
An embryo is biologically human. It deserves moral respect.
This president will not use your taxpayer dollars to destroy human life or create human embryos solely for the purpose of experimentation.
My friends, I'm so proud of our president's record. He's making health care more affordable, more accessible. He's uniting ownership and opportunity for millions. And he is looking to the future.
He has a vision to harness America's awesome potential, through the power of our technologies, the strength of our sciences, the efficiency of our enterprises, and the highest aspirations of our people.
Prescription drugs in Medicare, tax-free Health Savings Accounts, an ethical framework for scientific discovery -- these will be part of our future.
Tax credits for the uninsured, electronic medical records, a just, fair and fast medical liability system -- these could be part of our future.
But only one candidate will lead us there: President George W. Bush.
We have a choice. John Kerry's trillion dollar government-run plan will place your health care in the hands of others far away. President Bush's plan is patient-centered, which is the only sure prescription for superior care. Mr. Kerry will empower those who tax you. President Bush will empower those who cure you.
John Kerry remains the personal injury lawyers' best friend. George Bush will put the interests of patients, doctors and nurses first.
Fellow citizens, on November 2nd, there is only one choice for a stronger, for a healthier and freer America -- George W. Bush.