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National Perspective

Washington Insight

July 30, 1998|From The Times Washington Bureau

WIN SOME, LOSE SOME: For weeks, five senators from both parties have been meeting in each other's offices, trying to bridge the gap between Republican and Democratic proposals to rein in managed health care providers. But when the centrist proposal--crafted by Sens. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.) and Bob Graham (D-Fla.)--was released Wednesday, it was clear the senators had lost one of their outside supporters, a group of not-for-profit HMOs. The offending provision: giving patients expansive rights to appeal health plan decisions--including sensitive pediatric decisions. But the plan garnered support from the National Assn. of Children's Hospitals, the Catholic Health Assn., the American Cancer Society and one of the most influential consumer groups, Families USA. The Chafee-Graham plan, which also has strong support from Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), guarantees certain patient rights to everyone in the private health insurance market. The Senate GOP plan, by contrast, would extend full patient protections to only one-third of those in private insurance plans, while the Democrats' plan would allow consumers to recover consequential monetary damages from health plans. That provision engendered staunch opposition from the insurance industry and employers. But in the for-and-against column that counts the most, none of the three proposals is believed to have a majority of Senate votes.

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STILL KICKING: Those who last year saw Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms' (R-N.C.) political flirtation with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as a sign that the crusty lawmaker might be mellowing in his advanced years seem to have gotten it wrong. Helms, a longtime critic of international arms control treaties, and his staff are giving no quarter in the preliminary skirmishes for the debate to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Helms' spokesman Marc Thiessen reportedly fired off a bitter complaint after discovering that the committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, and Specter planned to use the committee's meeting room Wednesday for a press event promoting the treaty. Thiessen was said to be especially upset because it would happen as Helms was "flat on his back" recovering from double knee replacement surgery. "You might say he [Thiessen] went ballistic," said Adam Eidinger, who helped put together the event on behalf of the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers. Biden, apparently eager to avoid a confrontation, quickly agreed to shift rooms. Thiessen declined comment.

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IT'S MY PARTY: Rep. James E. Rogan (R-Glendale) was taking his 5-year-old twin daughters to the restroom during a White House picnic for members of Congress when First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton approached. Rogan prepped the girls, Dana and Claire, that they were about to meet the president's wife. After a round of friendly hugs and squeals, Clinton asked the young Republicans if they knew who she was. "Yeah," volunteered Dana. "You're Mrs. Dole."

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HOT! Republican Reps. J. D. Hayworth of Arizona and John E. Peterson of Pennsylvania are fed up with all the talk about global warming. In a "dear colleague" memo called "The Gore-Waxman Official Weather Forecast Legend," they attribute no fewer than 31 natural and not-so-natural phenomena to the alleged warming of the Earth's temperatures. Among them: El Nino, La Nina, La Bamba, traffic jam, sunrise, sunset, snow, low crop yields, high crop yields, earthquake, Seinfeld canceled, low SAT scores and France winning the World Cup.

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