Dole raises objections to financing of health plan

August 18, 1993|By Peter G. Gosselin | Peter G. Gosselin,Boston Globe

TULSA, Okla. -- Just one day after President Clinton unveiled the broad outlines of his health overhaul plan, Senate Republican leader Bob Dole demonstrated yesterday how hard it will be to make the measure law when he objected to the White House's ideas for financing the proposal.

Speaking to the same audience of the nation's governors that heard Mr. Clinton describe his plan, Mr. Dole asserted he was not being obstructionist. Indeed, the Kansas Republican devoted much of his 30-minute address to a call for the political parties to put aside differences and work together on revamping the health care system.

But Mr. Dole left little doubt about where the battle lines will be drawn on the issue. The GOP leader said many in Congress are dead set against the president's proposal for an "employer mandate," a requirement that every American firm pay a substantial chunk of employees' health insurance.

"Employer mandates are going to be pretty hard to sell with Republicans and Democrats," he told the governors. "They will "damage the economy" and "hurt those who need help most -- new hires, small businesses and low-income workers."

In focusing on the mandate, Mr. Dole picked up on themes already sounded by Republican governors and small business representatives during four days of meetings here, and hit what analysts say may be the political Achilles' heel of the Clinton proposal.

Although the White House asserts that the health care overhaul will ultimately help businesses by cutting health care costs and thus improving the nation's economic performance, it could also boost costs for small businesses that do not now provide employees with health coverage.

"It represents an unprecedented shift of responsibility from government to business," said John Motley, a vice president with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a lobbying group that opposes the Clinton plan. "It's a job-killer," he said.

Clinton supporters sought to make the best of Mr. Dole's remarks yesterday, choosing to focus on the Republican leader's call for bipartisanship and saying his comments on health care were not as hostile to the administration as they have been in the past.

"I think he was really reaching out. He wants to be bipartisan about this," said Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, a Democrat and outgoing head of the National Governors' Association.

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