Congress won't enact all of Clinton's health reforms until '94, Foley predicts

April 11, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Thomas S. Foley predicte yesterday that Congress would not enact all of President Clinton's health-care reforms before the end of the year.

The White House plans a nationwide lobbying effort to pressure Congress to act quickly once the health-care package is unveiled. But that may not be enough. Mr. Foley said he did not think the health-care legislation would be approved this year.

"It would be very optimistic, very impressive if we could enact the program entirely this year," Mr. Foley, D-Wash., said in an interview of Cable News Network's "Evans & Novak" show. "It's a process that I think may have to be finished next year."

On Friday, White House officials outlined the broad structure of the administration's health care reform. They said the new system would provide insurance and access to medical care for all Americans through a nationally mandated package of benefits. The benefits would probably be determined by a national board following guidelines set in legislation.

Final decisions on the form of the proposal will be made in the coming weeks. Mr. Clinton had promised to unveil it by May 3, but officials now say it is not expected to be released until late May.

The last element to be decided will probably be how to pay for universal coverage. There is no way to put a price tag on the program in its unfinished form, although administration analysts have estimated it will cost between $30 billion and $90 billion. Mr. Foley said yesterday he expected health care reform to cost taxpayers between $50 billion and $100 billion.

Mr. Clinton already faces major difficulty in Congress on his other major legislative initiative, his economic stimulus package.

The administration had hoped for fast approval of its $16.3 billion spending portion of the stimulus package. But a Republican filibuster bottled up the bill in the Senate before the Easter recess.

Mr. Foley said the White House must accept some painful compromises to win passage of the $16.3 billion proposal when Congress returns on April 19. He suggested that reduced spending in several areas might be part of the price of approval.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., has led the opposition, arguing that the package would increase the federal deficit and raise taxes too much to pay for projects that in many instances are frivolous. The White House has said Mr. Clinton hopes to use the Easter recess to persuade five moderate Republican senators to change their stance, opening the way for an end to the filibuster.

The other key element of Mr. Clinton's stimulus proposal is in trouble, too, as leading Democrats have indicated the proposed investment tax credit for businesses is unlikely to win approval from Congress. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, expressed uncertainty about its prospects.

Mr. Foley said he still hoped some version of the measure could be approved.

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