Clinton health plan due with fanfare in Sept.


WASHINGTON -- President Clinton's health reform plan -- in cold storage as Congress sweats over the budget -- will be unveiled in late September, a prominent Senate Democrat said yesterday.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., who took part in a strategy session with Hillary Rodham Clinton earlier in the week, said the plan would be accompanied by an intense political offensive organized and run like a presidential campaign.

The goal will be to persuade the public that Mr. Clinton's plan, although it may be complex, is far better than the rising costs and shrinking coverage Americans are experiencing.

"Woe be to the Republican or the Democrat who votes 'no' on health care reform if we have done our job," said Mr. Rockefeller, a leading advocate of reform.

A Senate source said that Sept. 22 was being considered as the date for Mr. Clinton to present his plan in a speech to a joint session of Congress. Legislation would follow shortly thereafter, but getting a bill passed would probably take most of next year.

"This is the most complicated piece of legislation ever to be put before the Congress," Mr. Rockefeller said at a breakfast with reporters.

Assuming that Mr. Clinton's deficit plan clears Congress early next month, the president will begin outlining the case for health reform by the middle of the month, Mr. Rockefeller said. A speech at the summer meeting of the National Governors' Association, Aug. 15-17, in Tulsa, Okla., could kick off the effort.

Mr. Rockefeller said the White House had set up a "boiler room" to coordinate the health care campaign.

" 'It's health care, stupid,' -- that's on the wall," said Mr. Rockefeller, in imitation of the Clinton election campaign's slogan on the economy.

Once the plan is presented, the Clintons, as well as Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, will hit the road to sell it.

House and Senate Democratic leaders have set up organizations to coordinate health care strategy, and there is talk of staging a monthlong teach-in during the fall for members of Congress and their staffs. Labor and consumer groups that support the White House are setting up their own campaign.

Among the issues still to be resolved in the Clinton plan are details of financing and the nature of cost controls on health care providers.

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