Breaux's Way to Shape Health-Care Bill

SEN. John Breaux of Louisiana, a member of the Democratic leadership in Congress, says health-care reform will require big concessions by everyone, including President Clinton.

``Health care is going to be a compromise bill,'' Senator Breaux predicts. He says that none of the current health-care proposals can pass without fundamental changes.

At a Monitor breakfast meeting on Friday, Breaux said that if key legislators agreed to compromise, a health-care law could be written within a week. Some large special interests - both liberal and conservative - may be very disappointed by the health-care bill that emerges from Congress, Breaux says. ``What the AFL-CIO wants, [or] what the Chamber [of Commerce] wants, is not going to win.''

Among the key elements that Breaux foresees in a health-care compromise are:

* Insurance reform. Eliminate preexisting conditions as a disqualification for insurance. Guarantee portability of insurance when a worker changes jobs or is laid off. Prohibit cancellation of insurance.

* Antitrust reform. Allow hospitals and suppliers to ``talk to each other'' in an effort to lower costs.

* Malpractice reform. Help physicians avoid practicing high-cost ``defensive medicine,'' with excessive tests and treatment, to protect themselves against lawsuits.

* Purchasing cooperatives. People anywhere in the country could get insurance at competitive prices.

* Comprehensive benefit levels. Standardized packages of benefits would be established.

* Uninsured people. Immediate coverage of the poor and the sick. Universal coverage within a few years.

Breaux, who is the Democrats' chief deputy whip, says Congress will have an easier time passing health reform if it moves quickly - before the pressures from lobbyists and the November election become too great.

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