SEATTLE GZB — SEATTLE -- The nation's governors called for dramatic changes in America's health care system yesterday but split along party lines over whether to hold Congress and the Bush administration accountable for the reform.
In an unusually emotional and partisan conclusion to the four-day National Governors' Association conference here, governors stressed the urgent need for health reform in a nation that pays the most for care while leaving 34 million people uninsured.
"One thing is clear: There is a sense of urgency here that has been vocalized," said Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, a Democrat, the NGA's new vice chairman. "This system has serious flaws."
But in a likely prelude to the 1992 campaign, Democratic governors pressed unsuccessfully to urge Congress and the Bush administration to implement health care reforms by 1994.
Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles, another Democrat, was supported by the 19 Democratic governors present and opposed by the 17 Republican governors. Under the NGA's rules, Mr. Chiles' amendment failed because it did not receive a two-thirds majority.
Mr. Chiles said the outcome reflected the Democratic governors' willingness to criticize the Democratically controlled Congress and Republican governors' reluctance to criticize President Bush.
"I think this is going to be very much a part of the debate now asyou go forward to the presidential" campaign, Mr. Chiles said.
Mr. Chiles said he was concerned that by failing to offer a deadline for implementing the reforms, governors would allow President Bush to propose a goal after he had left office.
The Bush administration has indicated it was waiting for recommendations from the governors and two federal study groups before proposing a health reform package, sometime next year.
Mr. Chiles said Mr. Bush, who mentioned health care in passing during a satellite hookup with the governors Sunday, "does not share the urgency" the governors feel.
The governors immediately closed ranks over another health issue more directly related to states. They unanimously adopted a proposal urging the administration to allow states to use a number of fund-raising methods designed to match the federal government's share of Medicaid payments.
The administration has referred to such methods -- which often involve contributions from hospitals that receive Medicaid -- as "scams" and indicated it would publish a regulation in the next few days barring such practices.