Clinton Signs Bill to `Seal Crack' in Health Coverage

Article excerpt

Almost two years after the collapse of his plan to guarantee health care for all, President Bill Clinton signed on Wednesday a far less ambitious insurance-revision bill that protects people from losing coverage because they get sick or switch jobs.

Clinton said the bill "seals the cracks that swallow as many as 25 million Americans" who cannot get insurance or cannot change jobs for fear of losing it. But although the new law provides peace of mind for Americans who already have health-care benefits, experts say it will not do much for the uninsured, most of whom cannot afford to pay insurance premiums.

The law offers far less than the universal coverage that Clinton sought early in his presidency, but it is still a significant step that won near-u nanimous approval in Congress.

The health bill, the minimum wage increase he signed Tuesday and a welfare overhaul bill to be signed today are meant to build momentum for Clinton heading into next week's Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The goal is to demonstrate to voters that the president is committed to bread-and-butter concerns of the American people.

Clinton signed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 in a White House ceremony, surrounded by some of the Democratic and Republican members of Congress who helped make it happen.

The legislation prevents the loss or denial of insurance coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions. "Today, we declare a victory for millions of Americans and their families. No longer will you live in fear of losing your health insurance because of the state of your health," Clinton said.

The president also plugged his proposal to help workers who are between jobs pay for health benefits.

Republicans called Wednesday's enactment their victory, something they said would have happened long ago if Clinton had not insisted on much broader legislation that failed. …