Republicans Zero In on Four Reform Plans

MANY Republican plans have been introduced and, so far, about four dominate:

* Sen. Phil Gramm (R) of Texas. The most conservative of the front-runners. Encourages people to pay for own insurance by setting up medical savings accounts. No standards for benefits packages. People with history of illness pay 150 percent more for coverage. Critics say this plan doesn't do enough.

* Rep. Robert Michel (R) of Illinois and Sen. Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi. Considered major bill of GOP, with 141 co-sponsors. Lean on government involvement, it requires employers to offer, but not buy, insurance for employees. Permits sale of approved catastrophic-benefits packages. Subsidies for low-income residents.

* Sen. Don Nickles (R) of Oklahoma and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R) of Florida. Provides tax incentives to encourage buying insurance. Sets a minimum benefits package. About 40 co-sponsors.

* Sen. John Chafee (R) of Rhode Island. About 20 co-sponsors. Considered closest of Republican plans to Clinton bill. Mandates individuals to purchase standard-benefits package and includes tax deduction for doing so. Subsidies for low-income phased in, as savings from cuts in Medicare spending accrue.

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