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Clinton Offers Compromises On Health Reform Provisions

By John Fairhall
The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON

Making a new bid for support for his health care reform plan, President Clinton offered Monday to compromise on two key provisions, but he failed to placate many critics.

The president told a meeting of U.S. governors that he is willing to compromise on proposals to limit health care spending and to require employers and employees to buy insurance through proposed regional bureaucracies called "alliances."

But the governors later dealt the White House a setback by approving a health reform policy that doesn't achieve the president's goal of guaranteed health care coverage for all Americans.

The chief problem for many of the governors and for many in Congress is the president's proposal to finance universal coverage by requiring employers to pay 80 percent of their workers' premiums.

Critics fear this would burden employers and ultimately lead to less employment and fewer businesses. Although Clinton has proposed subsidies to help smaller businesses pay for health care, congressional Republicans are generally united in opposition to this provision, which also upsets many Democrats.

Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat who endorsed President Bush in the 1992 election, said of Clinton, "I don't think he fully understands the impact on small business."

Although Clinton did not specify what compromises he would accept on other features of his plan, his willingness to consider changes could rob critics of some of their ammunition. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., the most prominent congressional opponent of the president's plan, has attacked the alliances and health care spending limits as harmful governmental intrusions.

"What I and my colleagues refuse to accept," Dole said Monday, "is the destruction of the best health care delivery system in the world ... in the guise of making health care available to all." Dole spoke to the American Hospital Association, which Clinton will address Tuesday.

Republican lawmakers have embraced a number of different bills, but most now agree on similar goals that they say would make it easier for Americans to buy and retain private health insurance.