Health reform machine revving again President's proposal due on Capitol Hill this week


WASHINGTON -- The White House is preparing to re-launch President Clinton's health care reform proposal even as senior aides are still figuring out how to make its financing plan work.

Administration officials said they want to regain the momentum they lost since the president unveiled his plan five weeks ago. They have been buffeted by concerns over the proposal's financing and diverted by the crises in Somalia and Haiti.

"I think that we will have a re-launch, we'll have a flurry of activity around the actual legislation being introduced," said a senior administration aide who asked not to be identified. The aide said the White House plans to stage events and use top officials to "keep the momentum going."

When the president's proposal is formally sent to Capitol Hill this week, it will be competing with five other plans designed by lawmakers from both parties who have their own health care agendas.

Although only two of those competing plans have been introduced, the broad details are known. No single plan, including the president's, is likely to become law as it now stands. Instead, analysts say, the eventual program is likely to be crafted from all the proposals.

Among those are three key plans that experts believe will provide the elements needed for a health care compromise: Mr. Clinton's proposal and the initiatives offered by a bipartisan House group and by a group of Republican senators.

All three embrace a concept called managed competition in which government nudges the private sector to deliver effective medical care efficiently and at the lowest possible cost.

Analysts say the financing scheme for Mr. Clinton's plan has proved difficult because the president is pursuing the conflicting goals of trying to trim costs while extending health-care coverage to the 37 million Americans without insurance.

The administration appeared to be making progress on the plan's financing with last week's revelation by Mr. Clinton that he had settled on a 75-cent-a-pack increase in the federal cigarette tax.

The Senate Republican plan, sponsored by Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island, enjoys the support of about 20 other GOP senators. The legislation has not been introduced. It would place heavy emphasis on insurance reforms but shifts the responsibility for purchasing coverage to individuals.

The bipartisan House proposal was written by Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and Rep. Mike Andrews of Houston, D-Texas. It has 50 co-sponsors. That plan is similar to the Senate Republican plan, although it does not carry any mandate for either employers or workers to purchase coverage.

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