DRUG BRIEFING BOOK, 29 OTHERS, SUBMITTED TO HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON MAY 14
The denouement in the work of the Clinton Administration's health care reform task force was signaled May 14 when 30 briefing books, including one on pharmaceuticals, were submitted to Hillary Rodham Clinton. The books are understood to include recommendations, options, rationales, background material and cost estimates. The administration will take at least four weeks to review the recommendations and prepare a final proposal for presentation to Congress in June. While the First Lady reviews the books, President Clinton reportedly was scheduled to discuss the cost of health care reform options with his National Economic Council on May 16. Led by Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Robert Rubin, the NEC has included the White House health care task force in its meetings within the past few weeks and reportedly has discussed health care almost exclusively. The NEC is focusing on health care due to both a genuine interest in the subject and the Administration's concern for avoiding charges of developing substantive policy through an informal, closed-door advisory group. White House Senior Advisor for Policy Development Ira Magaziner, chief of staff for the task force, told a May 12 meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, D.C. that final decisions on financing the proposal will not be made for another week or two. Magaziner said the task force "will be finishing its work in May," but the actual introduction of the plan "depends on the legislative calendar." The Administration is "concerned about the reconciliation bills and so on moving through Congress, and there are questions about exactly how to time the introduction of the health care bill versus the economic package," he explained. Although final financing decisions have not been made, Magaziner downplayed publicized estimates of the cost of the Clinton Administration's health care reform proposal: published "reports of a $150 bil. tax program are just crazy," he said. The $150 bil. figure that has been cited ("The Pink Sheet" May 10, p. 3) is the highest of a number of program options examined by the task force, he explained, adding that "the cost was all gross before any [savings] offsets" are factored. "I can assure you that nothing anywhere near like that is being seriously contemplated," Magaziner maintained. He told reporters after his speech that short-term price controls are still being examined.
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