Mrs. Clinton Pushes Public Debate Effort Would Get Health Reform Package out of Congressional Committees

Article excerpt

After weeks of virtual standstill on health reform, Hillary Rodham Clinton and prominent Senate Democrats pushed Wednesday to get legislation out of committee rooms and in front of the American people.

"Once the debate really starts, as it will, I think the American people will become very engaged," Mrs. Clinton said after a meeting with the senators at the Capitol. "There's never been an issue that is more personal, that people care more about."

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., who 24 hours earlier spoke only in the vaguest terms about when a bill might emerge from his committee, announced that the panel would begin publicly drafting a bill Monday. He said he hoped work could be completed in a week.

Meanwhile, a group of conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans on the committee that has been meeting to draft a bipartisan plan appeared near agreement on achieving universal coverage without the controversial requirement that employers pay their workers' insurance.

Americans instead would be required to buy insurance if 96 percent of the population did not have coverage after five years.

That plan would require individuals to buy insurance beginning in 2002 if a series of reforms had not resulted in coverage for at least 96 percent of the population, and if Congress did not take alternative steps. …