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Exchange With Reporters in Norwich, Connecticut

February 24, 1994

Health Care Reform

Q. Are you troubled at all, sir, by word coming off the Hill from the likes of Chairman Pete Stark that the employer mandates and the alliances are in trouble, that he sees little if any chance of them getting through?

The President. No. Mr. Stark has his own plan, and it's sort of a modified single-payer plan. So you wouldn't need the alliances if you did what he wanted, you know, if the Government paid for it all and fixed the price, if you had—just expanded for Medicare. But we see no evidence that beyond that subcommittee that that plan could pass.

But on the other hand, he does want universal coverage, and he wants comprehensive benefits. And so I consider him an ally because he wants that. He's been in this area a long time, and he has a fixed view about how he thinks it should be done. And so anything that's sent to his subcommittee obviously he's going to try to—he's going to see that it reflects his view. We'll just see what happens.

I think—but keep in mind, you've got that committee that a bill would have to come out of, and you've got two other House committees, then you've got two Senate committees. So you've got subcommittees in all the committees, five of them, and then the ultimate committees, and then the battle on the Floor. And this is just beginning.

So I'm not concerned about it because I think what everybody's going to have to do is to ask and answer the questions that at least he's asked and answered: Are you for universal coverage? Do you want reasonable benefits? And all these people here who have written me these letters make the best case for having a simple, clear comprehensive system that covers everybody and that involves things like prescription medicine. And I know you've been briefed on the letters they wrote me and how the system's affected them. But I consider, therefore, even though Pete Stark has a totally different view about how it ought to be done than I do, what he wants to do is what I want to do.

So I'm not troubled by that. We'll just have to see what comes out of that subcommittee, what comes out of the Ways and Means Committee as a whole, and where we go. I just think that the main issue now is going to be getting all the Members of Congress to sit down and ask and answer in a very calm and clearheaded way these hard questions that relate to making sure everybody has guaranteed private insurance, having the benefits be comprehensive to include preventive and primary care and things like this prescription-drug benefit that we're here to talk about. If that happens, than I think we're on the way to victory. We'll work out everything else, but I'm going to have a lot of very good conversations with people in both parties who are interested in this to deal with those big questions. If you can get there, I'm convinced we'll work out the details. I'm not worried.

NOTE: The exchange began at 2 p.m. in Slater Hall at the Norwich Free Academy. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters in Norwich, Connecticut Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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