Clinton delivers revamped health care plan



WASHINGTON (AP)—Promising a ‘‘new era of security for every American,’‘ President Clinton hand-carried his revised health care plan to Congress on Wednesday and urged passage within a year. Lawmakers of both parties applauded, then predicted major changes.

Clinton won’t ‘‘get the full bite of the apple,’‘ said House Republican Leader Bob Michel. He added that there are ‘‘substantive and profound policy differences’‘ over many elements in the plan assembled by First Lady Hillary Clinton.

‘‘Oh, it’s so complex and convoluted, we’ll probably go through it section by section and change it,’‘ said Democrat Pete Stark, a House Ways and Means subcommittee chairman who, after months of criticizing Clinton’s efforts, finally agreed to be a cosponsor.

Clinton presented the plan in the Capitol’s ornate Statuary Hall—to the cheers of more than 70 congressional supporters—in an effort to regain the momentum lost in the last month after the original unveiling of the broad proposal last month.

But delivery of the 1,300-page plan—the legislation itself won’t be introduced for another week or 10 days—reignited the debate over Clinton’s approach. It sparked little fire fights Wednesday in a preview of the big battles to come between the president’s hard-core supporters and foes on Capitol Hill.

It could be August 1994 or later before Congress acts.

Despite much talk of Republicans working with Democrats, there were plenty of negtive comments.

‘‘Circus fanfare’‘ was how House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., described the president’s ceremony, noting there still wasn’t an official bill.

According to a White House list, 29 senators and 43 House members are cosponsoring the president’s plan. But the list includes critics who plan on making big changes, such as Stark and fellow California Democrat Henry Waxman, chairman of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.

Conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans, who are trying to form a ‘‘middle ground’‘ coalition, still complain that Clinton’s plan is too costly and bureaucratic.

‘‘It’s a little bit more expensive and a little more government than the American people can get excited about,’‘ said Rep. Charles Stenholm, D-Texas, one of the conservative Democrats who gave Clinton so much trouble on the budget.

Some Republicans also said the plan goes too far, but Clinton’s supporters rejected that.

‘‘The major players have rejected incrementalism,’‘ said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., contending anyone who counts in Congress admits comprehensive change is needed.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., predicted that a final health care bill wouldn’t much resemble any of the plans that had been proposed so far.

Clinton delivered the proposal in a showy ceremony with about 70 lawmakers standing behind him. Front and center was the only Republican who has signed on, Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont.

Relatively few other lawmakers showed up; in fact, there were seats to fill, so lobbyists who had been relegated to standing got seats.

Clinton gave a shortened, repeat performance of his speech to the nation five weeks ago when he outlined a need to reform the nation’s $900 billion health care system.

Since then, the White House, bending in part to critics, has retooled the plan so that it postpones the guarantee of universal coverage for a year and limits federal subsidies for medical care. Other numbers have changed, too, such as how much the White House is counting on out of Medicaid savings.

Also, the final version would demand that drug manufacturers give the government rebates of at least 17 percent on drugs sold to Medicare patients. The draft plan had indicated a 15 percent rebate.

In another major decision since the first unveiling, the administration has said part of the cost of the plan would be met by raising cigarette taxes 75 cents per pack.

Clinton welcomed a debate over the details, but he said he wouldn’t back down on guaranteeing every American a comprehensive package of health benefits—‘‘insurance that’s always there.’‘

‘‘That is the bill I want to sign, that is my bottom line,’‘ Clinton said. ‘‘I will not support or sign a bill that does not meet that criteria.’‘

That pledge pleased liberal Democrats. But it gave conservative Republicans something to seize on.

‘‘The president and his wife are very good salespeople but the bottom line is that they are trying to sell socialized medicine. … They cannot sell that to the American people,’‘ said Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas.

But Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, retorted, ‘‘That doesn’t scare people anymore. … The cry of socialized medicine is precisely what the diehard opponents raised when Social Security and Medicare were introduced.’‘

Mrs. Clinton, who accompanied the president to Capitol Hill, called the legislation ‘‘a framework off of which to work’‘ and urged legislators to subject all competing health proposals to the ‘‘highest level of scrutiny.’‘

Stark said he was finally persuaded to sign on to Clinton’s bill at the urging of Mrs. Clinton.

‘‘It can be corrected,’‘ Stark said.

Clinton said Congress must act, one way or another. ‘‘The most expensive thing we can do is nothing,’‘ he said. ‘‘The present system we have is the most complex, the most bureaucratic, the most mind-boggling system imposed on any people on the face of the earth.’‘