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'One-Size-Fits-All' Plan Chafes the GOP : Response: Republicans warn of a cumbersome health care bureaucracy. They also object to price controls, premium mandates for employers.


WASHINGTON — In a response that embraced the broad principles of President Clinton's health care reform agenda--if not its specifics--Republicans declared Wednesday night that while they are committed to revamping the nation's health care system, the Administration's "Washington-mandated, one-size-fits-all approach" will not work.

"The President's plan will force too many Americans to change their health care coverage," warned Florida Sen. Connie Mack in delivering the official GOP response to Clinton's address. "It will give a faceless government bureaucracy more control over your health care. It could even prevent your own doctor from treating you. That's wrong."

Mack was joined in his remarks by Rep. Nancy L. Johnson of Connecticut and South Carolina Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. They praised Clinton for tackling an issue as complex and politically thorny as health care reform and said they are committed to reform and willing to compromise.

But at the same time, the Republicans reiterated their chief complaints about the Clinton plan: It would create a cumbersome health care bureaucracy and place too heavy a burden on employers, particularly small businesses, by requiring them to pay 80% of health care premiums.

They also said they object to the President's proposal to use price controls to cut rising health care costs, preferring to let free-market forces work. And they contended that the Administration's plan will create, in Mack's words, "an explosion in the size, scope and cost of government."

"It's clear to me that we can't rely on heavy-handed government regulation and bureaucracies to lead the charge toward reform," Campbell said. "The 238-page Administration draft is a giant social experiment devised by theorists who have never met a payroll."

The selection of Johnson, a moderate whose district includes Hartford, Conn., home to some of the nation's biggest insurance companies, and the more conservative Campbell and Mack to deliver the party's official reply reflects the division within the GOP about how best to respond to the Clinton plan.

In earlier battles with the President--most notably the debate over his budget and economic stimulus package--the GOP was solid in its opposition and forced Clinton to make key compromises.

That has not been the case on health care reform. While moderate Republicans favor many of the provisions in the Clinton plan, conservatives vehemently oppose what they see as massive government restructuring of the health care system.

Last week, Senate Republicans put forth their own alternative proposal. Drafted by moderates led by Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.), that plan puts more of the health care insurance burden on individuals, who would be required to purchase it much like they carry automobile insurance.

But some conservative GOP members lambasted the President's plan after he unveiled it before a joint session of Congress Wednesday night.

House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) termed Clinton's speech "terrific on analysis, weak on detail," and described the President's agenda as a "Rube Goldberg, big, centralized bureaucracy," concluding: "We have to erase it and rewrite it."

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) said Congress would alter the President's plan almost entirely before a bill is approved next year.

Times staff writer William J. Eaton contributed to this story.

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