The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 54.0°F | A Few Clouds

Administration Still Grappling with Funding of Health Plan

By Dena Bunis
Newsday

WASHINGTON

Amid a flurry of White House activity designed to warm various interests to President Clinton's health-care plan, administration officials Monday conceded that they still were grappling with the last details of how to pay for the plan just two days before the president officially unveils it in a nationally televised speech.

It was unclear, in fact, when Clinton would lay out those details -- specifically, how high a tax he would impose on cigarettes; which other, if any, "sin taxes" he is planning; and how much of a surcharge on large corporations he will ask for, if he chooses to impose one at all.

White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers said the president was "very close" to deciding how to raise $105 billion in new taxes to help finance the program, but that he was unlikely to spell out the details in his speech before a joint session of Congress Wednesday night.

The sin tax questions went largely unanswered as first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at a "health care university" briefing for members of Congress, key health aides talked to interest groups and the Clintons and Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, hosted a breakfast meeting of doctors at the White House.

Clinton's senior adviser on health, Ira Magaziner, told the National Association of Manufacturers that a payroll-based surcharge on corporations with more than 5,000 employees that opt to form their own health alliances under the Clinton plan is not meant to punish them.

"There are certain areas of the health infrastructure that benefit everyone," Magaziner said, explaining why the administration might ask corporations to pay for health costs that do not directly benefit workers. Those costs include such programs as research and training at medical schools and new ways to measure quality of care.

At a White House meeting with more than 100 doctors, Clinton received a boost from C. Everett Koop, surgeon general under former Presidents Reagan and Bush, who said that Clinton had already accomplished more to solve the nation's health woes "than all of his living predecessors put together."