Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Poll Finds Executives Overwhelmingly Oppose Clinton Plan

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Poll Finds Executives Overwhelmingly Oppose Clinton Plan

Article excerpt

N.Y. Times News Service

As Congress moves toward a vote on health care, the great majority of the nation's top executives are lining up against President Clinton's plan _ particularly his insistence that companies insure all their workers and pay most of the cost, a New York Times/CBS News Poll shows.

Business opposition to the Clinton plan, with its mandatory coverage, appears to have increased in recent months, some executives suggested in interviews after the poll.

Some executives say they oppose the plan even though it might reduce their health insurance costs. And many argue against giving government a greater role in health care, as the president would do.

While there are some notable exceptions _ like Ford Motor Co. and Bethlehem Steel Corp. _ opposition to big government has become the corporate rallying cry in the battle over health care legislation.

When Clinton first proposed his plan, many companies welcomed his ideas. Now, however, the broad corporate resistance presents a big obstacle to passage of the White House's proposal.

"The crowd I run in, there is clear opposition to the Clinton plan, and it is solidifying," said Richard K. Davidson, chief executive of Union Pacific Railroad, who is among the opponents, although the Clinton plan is likely to reduce Union Pacific's costs for insuring 28,000 employees.

"People are thinking of the negatives, the big brother role for government, the hidden costs, the taxation, that sort of thing. They fear big-government solutions," he said.

The poll of top officers at 484 companies, representing a cross section of corporate America, showed a preference for keeping the present basic payment system, with its heavy reliance on voluntary, rather than mandatory, companysponsored insurance _ a practice that leaves gaps in coverage for millions of people.

While 60 percent of the executives agreed that the health insurance system should be changed, 75 percent balked at altering their own status. They said companies should retain the right to decide whether to insure their employees and at what cost.

"The Clinton plan might save me money, but I am not for it anyway," said Melbern G. Glasscock, president of Texas Aromatics Inc., a Houston company that buys and sells petrochemicals and employs 21 people, most of them covered under a company health insurance policy.

"I am against any government interference," he said. "The long-term effect is that it will end up costing us more in the long run, and we give up freedom."

The current voluntary system leaves 48 million working Americans, or 40 percent of all job holders, without company health insurance, although many are covered through a spouse's policy or a parent's.

Indeed, many companies design their health insurance premiums to encourage workers to go elsewhere for insurance _ a practice the Clinton plan would end.

The Lucas Dealership Group, a chain of auto dealerships in the San Francisco area and in Hawaii, follows this practice. Lucas pays the entire $250-a-month premium to insure each of its 711 workers, but only 50 percent of the additional amount for family members. …

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