Magazine article Personnel

Situation Critical

Magazine article Personnel

Situation Critical

Article excerpt

Faced with medical costs already running 5 to 10 percent of payroll, and annual premium hikes up to 30 percent, a growing number of corporate business groups are becoming frustrated with what they feel has been an unnecessary lack of progress in the healthcare debate.

Most business lobbyists, Capitol Hill staffers, and health experts agree there won't be any significant action to hammer out the outline of a consensus national health insurance proposal before the fall elections. "The health insurance issue isn't going anywhere fast, right now. And I don't expect anything to happen until January, at the very least:' observes Allen Neece, of Neece/Cator Associates, a Washington lobbying firm.

"The White House is not providing any leadership and Congress isn't moving until there's some kind of consensus. As a result, the debate has moved slowly. Too slowly, in my opinion"' says a senior lobbyist at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Agreeing with this assessment, the AFL-CIO plans to launch a media blitz over the next several months consisting of TV and print ads designed to focus public attention on the need for a national health insurance program.

If, during the fall elections, Congress gets the idea that voters want healthcare reform, experts feel the log jam may be broken. If not, the issue could continue on the back burner for some time. "The first six months after Congress convenes next January will be critical in determining the pace and direction of the national health insurance debate," maintains Dr. Robert Graham, executive vice president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "If we haven't seen any significant action by then, I'm afraid it will be another couple of years before any serious changes will be made."

Based on interviews with key Washington political and healthcare insiders, here are three basic scenarios the national medical insurance debate could take over the next few months:

* Muddling Along. Neither Congress nor the White House takes dramatic action to focus and move along the healthcare debate to the point of actively endorsing and enacting specific proposals before the 1992 elections.

"The Republicans and the Democrats may decide it is not in their best interests to embrace a specific set of proposals because this could give the other side something to shoot at going into the next presidential election," argues Graham. …

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