HMO REFORM: Business Week Gives Reasons It May Succeed
The current issue of Business Week reports that despite conventional wisdom that "nothing much will get done" in the post-impeachment trial Congress, several factors point to passage of a viable HMO reform bill this session. Both President Clinton and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), a health policy expert, plan to make strong bids for passage of patients' rights bills. While the president "plans to campaign hard for his bill- of-rights plan," Hastert "hopes to demonstrate his effectiveness by ... making the GOP a player on health care." Although the insurance industry is planning a $7 million media campaign designed to defeat legislation, and a cadre of executives will head to Capitol Hill Wednesday to forestall a regulatory push, Business Week submits that they have "probably lost that fight already."
Hastert will likely back "some consensus reforms from last year's legislation" while attempting to deny Democrats a right-to-sue provision. Such a stance "would get the trains moving" and pave the way for bipartisanship, said a Republican staffer. Democratic pollster Mark Mellman said his party should "keep the bar high. There's no reason to give in to Republicans" on the right to sue. Business Week notes, however, that compromise legislation "gives the White House a chance to claim a rhetorical victory on patients' rights, and Clinton, the Great Compromiser, will be tempted to go along" (Borrus, 2/15 issue).