Rival plan cuts Clinton's health reform scheme

March 22, 1994|By Boston Globe

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is privately circulating a compromise that would sharply trim what President Clinton wants small business employers to pay toward their employees' health coverage but that would salvage the president's key goal of insuring all Americans.

Rep. John D. Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, would largely exempt firms with 10 or fewer employees from contributing toward their workers' coverage; establish a sliding scale of charges for firms with up to 75 employees, and somewhat reduce the 80 percent contribution sought by Mr. Clinton for firms with 75 to 1,000 employees. Those with over 1,000 workers would still have to contribute 80 percent, as in the president's bill.

Mr. Dingell's committee is considered a bellwether of how far the House will be willing to go this year on health care. His proposed compromise suggests the veteran legislator believes there is still a chance for sweeping reform despite the Whitewater controversy and other setbacks bedeviling the administration's overhaul drive.

In addition to trimming the administration's employer contribution requirement, Mr. Dingell would also drop a White House proposal that most Americans be required to purchase their coverage through so-called health alliances, large regional buying cooperatives. The Energy and Commerce chairman would make alliances voluntary, allowing people to buy either through them or from private insurers.

Mr. Dingell would also require individuals to pay a greater share of their medical costs than under Mr. Clinton's plan by raising the level of deductibles and increasing co-payments. For example, the deductible that an individual would have to pay before being eligible for catastrophic coverage would be raised from the $1,500 in the president's plan to $2,500.

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