Journal Record Staff Reporter
Health care reform must be passed this year or it will lose
momentum and popular support and die, former Democratic
presidential candidate Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts said
What makes the issue so critical is that Congress is to take
up debate Tuesday on a balanced budget amendment. Health care
costs, especially government entitlement programs, will play a
significant role, the former senator said.
"If we don't get health care reform this year, we won't get it
next year, either," said Tsongas, who was in Oklahoma City to
lobby for popular support of his particular version of health
care reform. "If Congress ends up in gridlock over this, it's
going to lose momentum and go away and we'll never get true
At the very least, Tsongas predicted, Congress will pass some
form of insurance reform and provide some form of health care
relief for the working poor this year.
"That would be disastrous, though," he said. "Then they
(members of Congress) would feel as if they had done something
and let the issue die. We can't do that."
Tsongas' visit was sponsored by the Healthcare Leadership
Council, made up chief executives of medical facilities and
insurance and pharmaceutical companies who "realize there is
going to be some sort of reform, and they want to have something
to say about it," he said.
Health care reform that Tsongas advocated during the 1992
Democratic presidential primary differs slightly from that
advocated by the Healthcare Leadership Council, he said.
"We're together about 95 percent on this," he said. "We differ
on employer mandates. I feel that employer mandates are important
to have universal coverage; they don't. Let the people decide
which they want.
"I came on as spokesperson for this group with two conditions
_ that I could advocate my particular reform that I came to the
table with back in the fall of 1991, and that I not lobby members
The Clinton health care reform bill takes a lot of the
measures he advocated during the campaign but adds entitlements
that weren't in the campaign issue, Tsongas said.
"I never had these three new entitlements: for 55-year-old
retirees, long-term health care and pharmaceuticals for the
elderly. Those are megabucks.
"People who vote for the balanced budget amendment next week
will have a hard time also voting for those extra entitlements."
Those entitlements are precisely what will cause President
Clinton to compromise on several aspects of the proposal, Tsongas
said. Most of the compromise will be with U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper,
D-Tenn., who has presented what Tsongas called "a centrist
approach" to health care.
Because Cooper has strong bipartisan support in both houses of
Congress, his proposal appears to be more highly favored than
that of the administration. …