Health Care Reform Update

February 01, 1994

GOP -- Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas said yesterday that Congress would not pass a comprehensive health bill this year "if we don't address it on a bipartisan basis."

Speaking to the American Hospital Association, Mr. Dole endorsed President Clinton's goal of providing health insurance coverage for all Americans, but he urged the White House to be flexible and open to compromise. "The administration is attempting to sell price controls and global budgets and government monopolies as answers to very real problems," Mr. Dole said.

"They call us naysayers and nit-pickers because we oppose turning one-seventh of the economy over to the federal government. I and my colleagues refuse to accept destruction of the best health care delivery system in the world, which we have now, in the guise of making health care available to all. It's not the goal we disagree with. It's the elements that make up the prescription for change."

DRUG PRICES -- Democratic Sen. David Pryor of Arkansas assailed prescription drug makers yesterday, warning that Congress might consider some form of controls to curb "exorbitant prices."

"This is a necessity of life," said Mr. Pryor, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Drug prices are "something that we've got to look at in any health care legislation."

At a news conference, Mr. Pryor said he will introduce legislation this spring to give drug companies incentives to hold down prices. He said his bill also may include sanctions against manufacturers, such as reducing their patent protection.

Mr. Pryor released a report by the committee's Democratic staff showing that wholesale prices for prescription drugs increased by 3.1 percent in 1993, a decline from previous years but much higher than the 0.2 percent inflation rate for all manufacturers.

The largest industry group insisted that drug prices have moderated substantially. The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association said last year's wholesale price increase was the lowest in 20 years and less than half the rate in 1992.

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