SHREVEPORT, La. -- Taking on his health care critics before an audience of friendly auto workers, President Clinton warned yesterday that the slowed growth in medical costs will "go right back up again" if the country does not follow General Motors in supporting his reform plan.
Mr. Clinton, speaking at a Chevrolet light-truck assembly plant here, told auto workers not to believe business groups and insurance companies that contend that his plan would bring about a government takeover of the health care system.
"It's not true," he said. "What the president wants to do is to keep the system we've got now and give it to everybody: guaranteed private health insurance, private doctors, private providers -- a private system."
Mr. Clinton criticized a rival proposal by Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., that has emerged as the leading alternative to the administration's initiative. Mr. Cooper's proposal promises "universal access" to health insurance but would not guarantee coverage for all Americans.
"There's universal access to this truck," Mr. Clinton said, pointing to a vehicle behind him. "But only people with money can pay [for] it."
In stressing the need for universal coverage, Mr. Clinton told of a woman who had written him about her husband, who developed lung cancer but was denied treatment because he had no health insurance.
"They wouldn't even treat him, and he died in five weeks," Mr. Clinton said. "Our approach completely outlaws insurance discrimination. . . . Our plan reduces the control of the insurance companies and gives more input to workers and to business."
And he told of a Shreveport woman, an employee of an insurance company, who suffered a brain aneurysm. Even when her doctors told her she was "totally healed," she couldn't find new insurance.
"There are people like that all over the country," Mr. Clinton said.
Mr. Clinton said that medical inflation "goes down every time there's a serious threat to reform the health care system." But if his bill is rejected, he said, "it will go right back up again, just like it has every time in the last 50 years."
Mr. Clinton's comments before the crowd of about 2,000 were beamed live to other auto workers around the country. The receptive audience was assembled by one of the few companies that still supports the president's plan.