October 8, 1999
After Congress shot down the President's and the First Lady's original massive health-care plan, Clinton announced he would try to resurrect and push it through piecemeal. With the help of Republicans, the strategy is working, say political analysts.
Here is how the White House is accomplishing its goal:
- The Kennedy-Kassebaum legislation -- which was supposed to make health insurance more "portable" -- also made it a lot more expensive for people in the individual market, in some cases doubling or tripling their premiums.
- Legislation to require insurers to cover mental health benefits up to the same limits as standard medical care was tempered by a provision saying that if that would drive up a company's health insurance costs by more than 1 percent, it wouldn't have to offer it -- resulting in few companies doing so and leading to more calls for "reform."
- An initiative to provide health insurance to uninsured children has resulted in fewer children than expected being enrolled in the program -- leading Clinton to spend millions more to convince parents to sign their children up.
- Republican defections in the House led to passage of the so-called "patients' bill of rights" -- which, although it must be reconciled with a differing Senate version, has trial lawyers salivating over the prospect of suing health maintenance organizations.
So ClintonCare, which Congress overwhelmingly opposed, is taking shape.
Ahead lies expansion of prescription drugs for seniors, then the expansion of Medicare to cover people between the ages of 55 and 64. Few observers doubt that if these precedents are set, there will be calls to expand such benefits to more and more Americans and price controls will be inevitable.
Source: Merrill Matthews Jr. (USA Radio Network), "Another Step Closer to ClintonCare," Wall Street Journal, October 8, 1999.
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