HEALTH CARE REFORM BASED ON MANAGED COMPETITION SUPPORTED BY REP. DINGELL DESPITE ERSTWHILE PREFERENCE FOR SINGLE-PAYER SYSTEM -- PRESS CLUB SPEECH
House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Dingell (D-Mich.) supports the Clinton Administration's managed competition approach to reforming the national health care system, the congressman declared in a Sept. 29 luncheon address to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Although he has long been an advocate of a single-payer system, Dingell said he will support the Clinton Administration's managed competition proposal "with great enthusiasm." Calling health care reform "the last major component of the New Deal" and himself "the last remaining New Dealer in the Congress," Dingell declared: "I am prepared to move heaven and earth in the Energy & Commerce Committee to see to it that health care reform passes." The current Congress has the "first and best opportunity to pass national health insurance in the more than 50 years since it was first introduced," he said. "I think the political miracle will occur in the 103rd Congress, and before the 104th meets we will be able to congratulate ourselves that we have done something good for the country," Dingell predicted, asserting that he is "wildly optimistic" about the prospect of enacting health care reform. Dingell's father (also John Dingell, after whose death in 1955 the current chairman was elected to Congress) was the sponsor of the first health care reform legislation, a fact alluded to by Hillary Rodham Clinton during her Sept. 28 appearance before the Energy & Commerce Committee. The Michigan Democrat discounted criticism that the Administration's proposal will impede development of new medical technology. "Within a competitive trillion-dollar industry, [which is] growing toward $2 tril. [in sales] within six years at a rate exceeding the rate of inflation, there will continue to be an enormous number of opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop breakthrough drugs, devices and wonderful new techniques of delivery," he maintained. However, Congress will be required to make "bold choices" that "cannot satisfy everyone," Dingell acknowledged. "If cost containment works, providers will be unhappy; if a service -- needed or not -- is a bit harder to get, reform will be blamed." Furthermore, he continued, the population is aging, and technology is growing faster than income and the ability to pay for it. He quipped that by comparison to the complexity of national health care legislation, the debate over the Clean Air Act will "look like a commemorative stamp resolution." Nonetheless, there is bipartisan agreement that health care reform, universal coverage and cost containment are needed, Dingell said. President Clinton "has tapped deeply into public sentiment" yet has indicated a willingness to be flexible in his approach to the legislation. The "jurisdictional wrangling" for consideration of the proposal "by as many as 16 committees" is not a detriment, the congressman maintained. Broad examination of legislation "is good because you want to have your legislation considered in your Congress carefully and thoughtfully, giving full attention and opportunity to the concerns of every American," he said. "Posturing" by committees over jurisdiction are side issues, he added. "There are really just two groups in this debate: those who really want a bill and those who do not." The Michigan Democrat also commented that Congress will not try to move the North American Free Trade Agreement because the Administration "does not now have the votes" to get it passed. Dingell was asked if he was interested in running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Riegle (D-Mich.), who announced on Sept. 28 that he will not seek re-election. Dingell replied that he had "struggled for a long time to get to be chairman of the [House] Energy & Commerce Committee, and [he is] really not interested in any demotions at this time."
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