Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Clinton Ponders Hospital Tax to Fund Health Care Reform

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Clinton Ponders Hospital Tax to Fund Health Care Reform

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON _ President Clinton is seriously considering a new tax on hospitals to help finance medical care for people who currently have no health insurance, administration officials said Monday.

The officials said the proposal would be high on the agenda when Clinton meets this week with his advisers to review the design of his plan to guarantee health care for all Americans.

A senior White House official supervising the work of the President's Task Force on National Health Care Reform said many hospitals would get a financial "windfall" under Clinton's plan because all Americans would have some type of insurance.

As a result, he said, hospitals would be paid for providing care to people who now pay little or nothing for such care.

The administration is considering a tax or some other type of assessment to recover some of that money, the official said.

But some hospital officials deny that a windfall would occur. They argue that hospitals would reduce their charges under the managed-competition plan being devised by the administration.

Asked if the administration was considering a charge on doctors, like the one being discussed for hospitals, a White House official said, "We do have some proposals on the table for that."

Clinton has repeatedly said that employers should help finance health care for their workers and that he would ask Congress to impose such a requirement. White House officials said Monday that the requirement would be put into effect gradually.

Thus, the officials said, in the first years of the president's plan, such employers would have to pay a gradually increasing share of their employees' health costs. Under the proposal to be discussed this week, the government would subsidize the coverage with money raised from the tax on hospitals.

"Once you phase in universal coverage, you could expect a significant decline in uncompensated care," the senior White House official said. "I think nobody disputes that there will be a significant windfall for some hospitals.

The idea of a tax on hospitals arose soon after Clinton appointed the health care task force in January, but it quickly faded from public view; in early May, White House officials assured hospital lobbyists that the idea had been set aside. But the officials now say that Clinton's health policy advisers have recommended such a tax and that the president is likely to propose it.

In addition, the administration is considering a proposal to finance care for the uninsured by taking money now earmarked for hospitals that serve disproportionate numbers of low-income patients under Medicare and Medicaid, the programs for the elderly and the poor. The administration says there would be less need for such payments if all Americans had health insurance.

The White House says Clinton will send his health care proposals to Congress in June. …

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