Bipartisan Budget Group Urges Drop Broad Health ReformCHRISTOPHER CONNELL , Associated Press
Jul. 11, 1994 5:39 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A bipartisan group of former lawmakers and civic leaders urged the Clinton administration and Congress to abandon attempts to overhaul the entire U.S. health system and settle for less ambitious reforms.
''Reforming the health system cannot be achieved in one omnibus piece of legislation,'' the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget asserted Monday.
The committee is a nonprofit group that monitors the budget and pushes for deficit reduction. It is chaired by former Rep. Robert N. Giaimo, D-Conn., and former Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. Its directors include politicians and power-brokers from both parties, including Edmund S. Muskie, Warren B. Rudman, David Stockman, Roy L. Ash, William H. Gray III, Robert S. Strauss, Paul E. Tsongas, Peter G. Peterson and Paul A. Volcker.
It would be ''premature and ill-advised'' to try to restructure the entire $1 trillion health system, the group concluded. ''A strong enough consensus does not yet exist to support changes to our economy of the sheer magnitude contemplated.''
The bluntly worded, 148-page report did not endorse any single health reform bill. It said the Clinton plan, the so-called Managed Competition Act and the Canadian-style American Health Security Act all were hobbled by ''uncertain long-term financing, which raises serious concerns about their long-term viability.''
''Health care reform means being honest about the cost of the benefits we want,'' the report said.
''Notwithstanding the rhetoric, people pay for health care and health insurance, not employers and not government,'' it said. Focusing on how to expand benefits while glossing over how to pay for them ''is a recipe for disaster.''
Federal mandates ''are taxes and should be treated as such,'' it said.
Employees, not their employers, ''will end up paying most of the bill, either in lower cash wages or higher prices,'' it said.
It called universal coverage ''a means to an end - not the end itself.'' It predicted that even Clinton's bill would not cover more than 95 percent of Americans, as some employers and individuals would dodge its requirements.
The report said community rating - charging everyone the same premiums - would force the young to subsidize the old, and the healthy to subsidize the sick.
It suggested that Congress consider taxing employer-provided health benefits to make people more cost-conscious about their health care decisions.
For now, it urged Congress and the president to proceed with insurance market reforms, cutting red tape, changing malpractice laws and overriding state laws that erect barriers to managed care.
Four congressional committees have approved versions of health reform. Democratic leaders are trying to merge the proposals and bring them to the floor of the House and Senate for debate and votes over the next month.
Three of the bills would require employers to help buy insurance starting in 1998. The Senate Finance Committee plan would not force anyone to buy insurance; it sets a goal of covering 95 percent of Americans by 2002.
Meanwhile, leaders of 30 groups, from B'Nai B'Rith to the National Council for Senior Citizens to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, joined Housing Secretary Henry G. Cisneros at the White House to express support for universal health coverage.