Senators Prepare for BIg Introduction of Health Care Bill
Clymer, Adam, THE JOURNAL RECORD
N.Y. Times News Service
WASHINGTON _ In a week when little seemed to be happening with the Clinton effort to overhaul health care, the Senate offered intricate examples of the indirect maneuvering this issue will demand for the next year or so.
Two Senate Republicans, John H. Chafee of Rhode Island and John C. Danforth of Missouri, who want to require individuals to buy insurance, met with other lawmakers who oppose any required insurance at all. That left others wondering which side was thinking of changing its position.
Then a Senate Democrat earnestly rounding up co-sponsors for the president's long-awaited bill prevailed on the White House to propitiate one senator not so much to gain his support, which was unlikely any time soon, but rather to sway his allies.
Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat who is the Senate's foremost advocate of a "single payer" system in which the government pays the bills, has been complaining for weeks that while the administration says it wants to let individual states try that system if they want to, its plan seemed to offer them endless red tape.
So on Thursday Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee, insisted the White House go along with Wellstone and simplify the process to choosing a single payer. Wellstone announced victory the next day, calling the change a "huge step forward."
He still would not support the Clinton program, which relies on private health insurance and seeks universal coverage by requiring all employers to pay premiums for their workers. But he acknowledged that "for some single-payer senators, this agreement could make a difference in co-sponsorship of the Clinton plan."
That translates, in the hopes of administration supporters, into backing from three senators, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Howard M. Metzenbaum of Ohio and Paul Simon of Illinois.
Of course, how much difference co-sponsorship makes anyway is open to question. Senators define it differently. For some it signifies absolute commitment. But Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., has agreed to co-sponsor the bill, though he has some very public reservations about it.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., even voted this summer to prolong a filibuster of a bill he had co-sponsored, one calling for national service. …