Health plan will pass, say lawmakers

March 07, 1994|By New York Times News Service

CHICAGO -- Two major congressional committee chairmen insisted yesterday that Congress would pass legislation guaranteeing health insurance for all Americans, with most employers required to pay most of the costs.

Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., who heads the House Ways and Means Committee, and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., who heads the Senate Finance Committee, scoffed at assertions by Republicans that President Clinton's plan, or at least many of its major provisions, was dead.

Mr. Rostenkowski said the two had not coordinated their nationally televised presentations. Even so, their dovetailing arguments made a positive case for health care legislation that is often sharply criticized, sometimes by Mr. Moynihan himself, on the weekend interview programs.

Mr. Moynihan said he believed that Mr. Clinton's proposal for large insurance-purchasing cooperatives known as alliances was dead. Mr. Rostenkowski said, "I'm not going to concede that." If he ever does make such a concession, he added, "I am going to try to get something for it."

Mr. Rostenkowski said he expected his committee to produce "a proposal that would come pretty near what the president wants to do."

"If we don't pass a health bill, then I think we are exposed to great criticism," he said in an interview from Chicago broadcast on the ABC News program "This Week With David Brinkley." He said he expected Mr. Clinton would win passage of the measure.

Mr. Moynihan said that Senate prospects for the Clinton plan had actually been enhanced by the announced retirements of Sen. George J. Mitchell, D-Maine, the majority leader, and three other members of the Finance Committee.

He said that Mr. Mitchell and Sens. John C. Danforth of Missouri and David Durenberger of Minnesota, both Republicans, and Don Riegle, a Democrat of Michigan, "want to leave something behind." He was interviewed in Washington for the CBS News program "Face the Nation."

Mr. Moynihan and Mr. Rostenkowski also were in harmony on the question of requiring employers to pay for insurance. Prominent Republicans such as Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas have insisted that it was "unacceptable" to require employers to pay most of their workers' insurance premiums, as Mr. Clinton's plan would do.

Mr. Moynihan said: "You might divide it between somewhat larger firms and leave a different arrangement for the smaller firms. Probably we are going to end up there, because you will have to have that to get the support of the smaller firms."

Mr. Rostenkowski simply said that "you are going to have some kind of an employer mandate."

Mr. Moynihan also said that he expected some kind of limits on how fast insurance premiums could rise, though probably in a form "a little more flexible" than Mr. Clinton had proposed. Mr. Rostenkowski said he was "not ready to make that decision."

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