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As millions of Americans watched President Clinton deliver his health care reform plan this past Wednesday evening, it was evident Clinton wanted health care coverage for all, even for those 37 million presently without any insurance. Clinton proudly held up a model of the health care security card, which every American would possess. Fifty minutes later, he had outlined several major issues of his plan: responsibility, security, and portability.
Under the new plan, all Americans would be responsible for contributing to their health care costs, and all Americans would have health care insurance. Portability would require that a person have constant health coverage, even during periods of unemployment or job changes. Exclusions for pre-existing conditions would be disbanded, and one, unified claim form would reduce the endless amount of paperwork. Health care alliances would be set up in each state to govern existing insurance companies and offer an optional health care package for those who chose it.
Businesses would be responsible for paying 80% of the health care premiums of full-timers. Part-timers would be responsible for the rest of the premium. Contractors would be required to pay their full premiums, but could deduct that amount from their taxes. Clinton proposed that money for the plan would come from reductions in Medicare and from taxes on tobacco and alcohol.
Several local Baltimorians were pleased with Clinton's plan. Child Advocate, Josh Hickey, said, "the plan benefits people that have problems with the current system, mainly pre-existing conditions, which keeps people from the ability to have medical coverage." Hickey stated that under the new plan, medical coverage would be a right not a privilege.
Anjeu Royce, a property manager, was also pleased with what she heard. "I was glad that the president addressed preventive things such as Mammograms and pap smears, issues for women. In this way, women won't wait until the last minute."
Others, however, were doubtful about the plan's success. Joyce Lyons Terhes, Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, agreed that although coverage was needed for uninsured persons, the concept of socialized medicine would cause greater problems. "To say to every American citizen that you can have the health care that you are entitled to will end up costing a tremendous amount of money, and the quality of health care will not be as good as it is now." Terhes feels that the plan will be a "horrible burden on the small business owner, because they say you have to provide it to part-time employees. Businesses will have to make decisions-do I fire people?"
One small business owner also agreed saying that he might have to pay lower wages to new hires and give smaller raises to present employees. Because he hires many part-time employees, he wonders how his business will survive.
The idea of socialized medicine didn't appeal to Dr. Blar, a general surgeon at St. Agnes Hospital. "There will be a lot of people waiting in the clinics, because there would be no incentive to work. This is evident in some municipally funded hospitals." Dr. Blar stated further, "our present level of care is so high, because as doctors work harder and longer, their efforts are rewarded by higher salaries. Hospitals with better reputations will attract more patients and in turn, earn higher profits."
According to the US News and World Report's September 27, 1993 issue, there are some Americans who stand to lose. Using Clinton's estimated premium costs of $1,800 per individual and $3,400 per family, US News cited the following example.
A person earning $35,000 per year currently pays no premium for a company-paid plan worth $5,500. Under Clinton's plan, the company would pay 80% of the estimated $4,200 plan or $3,300. The employee then is responsible for 20% of the $4,200 or $840; she is now paying more for a lower valued plan. Considering that many companies allow workers to pay part of the health premiums with pre-tax earnings, those Americans stand to lose even more. On the positive side, it is important to note that this employee's pre-existing condition would be covered under the new plan, and the company would be saving $2,200.

By Carol Neuberger