The two first ladies who previously appeared before congressional committees had confined their appeals to far narrower issues than the overhaul of the nation's health care system. Eleanor Roosevelt testified twice on the migration of laborers during the Dust Bowl era and World War II and Rosalynn Carter testified on a reappraisal of mental health policy.
The Administration's effort to sell its plan also received a setback Tuesday when the powerful American Medical Assn. launched a mass mailing to the nation's 710,000 physicians and medical students, disseminating a 15-page analysis in which it expressed "serious reservations" about Clinton's plan.
While praising the President's broader goals, such as achieving universal health coverage by requiring contributions from all employers and employees, the AMA said that Clinton's plan "would limit choices by patients and physicians, undermine the quality of medical services, and lead to federal control of medical education and the physician work force."
In a cover letter signed by its three top officials, the AMA also expressed its concern about "the degree of centralized regulation in a proposal that is intended to be a competitive, market-based approach."
The 300,000-member AMA, the nation's largest group of doctors, said that the plan might "significantly" limit the medical education opportunities for students and hamper their ability to choose a specialty.
The organization also expressed its opposition to the establishment of a national medical spending budget and said that the government-designed standard benefits package in Clinton's agenda is "inadequate" and "does not appear to use most current data."
Times staff writer Edwin Chen contributed to this story.