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Clinton briefs NLC leaders on health care reform.

NLC policy leaders last week attended a personal briefing by President Bill Clinton on the National Health Care Reform Initiative scheduled to be officially released this week. They heard from the President and he heard from them, as they were permitted to comment on his plan.

The President said: "I commend you, as leaders of cities and towns, for your hard work in providing health care in your communities. With your help, we can bring about major health care reform, and in the process, free up more state and local dollars to address your own priorities."

Although Clinton kept his remarks focused on broader issues, the question and answer period that followed yielded a better insight into the views and concerns of local elected officials. Attendees felt that it was clear the administration valued the input of municipalities and that their views were being aggressively sought.

Dorothy Inman-Crews, Chair of NLC's Human Development (HD) Policy Committee and Mayor of Tallahassee, Fla. said:

"I represent the National League of Cities as chair of our Human Development Policy Committee. As elected leaders from cities, we are concerned about several aspects of the plan, including:

its provisions for serving medically underserved populations, whether in central city neighborhoods, or small, rural, isolated communities;

the plan's ability to create excellence of service to all Americans;

a level playing field for municipal governments in the provision of health care for our employees;

that the level of co-payments and out-of-pocket costs not interfere with the goal of universal coverage;

the impact of catastrophic illnesses, like AIDS, on cities and city health care services; and

the potential for unemployment in many cities from the downsizing of medical services."

Inman-Crews asked the White House to address the treatment of cities in the plan, saying, "as presented, your plan permits rural electric and phone cooperatives to form regional alliances. Some cities currently have such alliances. Doesn't it make sense to permit municipalities the same option?"

Nevertheless, NLC members returning from the White House briefing felt the plan (see related story) was a tremendous advance over the current system and that such changes were long overdue. Moreover, they were pleased by the openness of the President and his staff to the concerns of municipalities and to the administration's repeated mention that the initiative is not set in stone but rather is continuing to evolve.

Upon returning to NLC headquarters, Human Development Steering Committee members met to air their opinions on issues closer to the heart of municipalities. A number of principles and criteria contained in NLC's National Municipal Policy contained in the initiative including: a return to community rating, the elimination of preexisting condition exclusions, a primary focus of the plan on preventive care, and special incentives to serve underserved populations in rural and urban regions.

NLC members expressed concern, however, that the plan did not appear to progress much beyond the state level or demonstrate a clear understanding of differences between the state and local levels. They were also concerned at the lack of administrative savings or relief to those facing significant prescription drug costs.

Representatives of NLC's Human Development Steering Committee attending the special briefing were: Dorothy Crews, chair of Human Development (HD) Committee, mayor of Tallahassee; HD Vice-Chair Clay Dixon, mayor of Daytono; Kathryn Nack, councilmember, Pasadena, Calif and Sheila Jackson-Lee, councilmember, Houston both co-chairs of the Youth, Education and Families Task Force; Tom Werth, mayor, Rochester, Mich.; Lock Beachum, councilmember, Youngstown, Ohio; Harry Thomas, councilmember, Washington, D.C.; Patsy Ticer, mayor, Alexandria, Va.; John Heilman, councilmember, West Hollywood, Calif., Joan Campbell, councilmember, Minneapolis; Marion Tasco, councilmember, Philadelphia; Michael Thibodeaux, mayor pro-tem, Opelousas, La.; Lulu Smith, councilmember, Beaumont, Tex.; Bill Gillespie, councilmember, Northglenn, Colo., and Jerrilyn Wall, councilmember, Evanston, Wyo.

Mayor Sharon Priest of Little Rock, Chair of NLC's Transportation and Communications Policy Committee, also attended the briefing prior to receiving an All American City award from the President on behalf of the City of Little Rock at a subsequent White House event.
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities
Author:Quist, Janet; Shafroth, Frank
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Sep 20, 1993
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