Health Care Needs A National Framework

Hillary Rodham Clinton was only partially right when she went before the American Academy of Pediatrics to charge health insurers with bringing America "to the brink of bankruptcy because of the way that they have financed health care." Truth is, until the late 1980s, insurers financed health care exactly the way the doctor ordered. Physicians performed whatever procedure they deemed necessary. Insurers meekly paid the bill--and passed on the cost to business.

Corporate America finally put the brakes on this and invested time and money in health-cost containment. The result? Health-care premiums are rising by only 8%, down from 11%, the slowest increase in five years. There's a long way still to go, but at least business has turned the corner, unlike Medicare and Medicaid, the federal government's health plans.

Yet just as employers start to get results, the Clintons' Health Security Act proposes to gut their efforts. Small and medium-size employers would lose control over health benefits--and just write checks to purchasing cooperatives. And the large employers that have forced cost efficiency onto the medical industry would be set back 20 years, as the President's plan subjects them to increased state regulation--and the whims of whatever medical interest group has the ear of legislatures.

Fortunately, the Clinton plan, which has many good features, can be modified on Capitol Hill. The new health system that emerges from Congress should include health benefits that are built on a national framework--not Balkanized by state regulation.