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Dukakis Proposes Health Insurance Law for Workers

Associated Press

Democrat Michael S. Dukakis proposed today that the federal government require employers to provide minimum health insurance coverage for all American workers, which his campaign said would provide benefits to about 22 million people who have none.

Underscoring his emphasis on health issues, the Massachusetts governor campaigned at a Houston medical center by visiting two clinics. Later in the day, he presented his health insurance plan in a speech at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky.

At Hermann Hospital, part of the Texas Medical Center, the Democratic nominee sat with a dozen selected patients and family members in the waiting room of a cancer ward and asked each in turn about medical costs and health insurance problems.

‘I Think It’s Time’

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“I think it’s time we did something,” he said. “It’s getting worse. . . . “

“If all goes well on the 8th of November, Sen. (Lloyd) Bentsen and I are going to do something about it,” Dukakis said. “Spread the word.”

His campaign issued a statement saying that as President, Dukakis would propose legislation that would require all employers to provide basic health plans for their workers, with special provisions for small and new businesses.

Dukakis’ health adviser, Dr. David Blumenthal of Boston, said the campaign had no estimate of what the proposal would cost employers. The statement said it would not cost the federal government anything.

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The statement also said that if elected, Dukakis would appoint a task force to report by March 30, 1989, on follow-up legislation that would guarantee universal health coverage, thus extending benefits to every American, working or not.

Millions Without

Blumenthal said 37 million to 40 million Americans are without health insurance. He said the initial Dukakis plan would guarantee coverage for about two-thirds of them by requiring that employers provide insurance or risk civil penalties. The other one-third would be covered under the second-step universal health plan.

The follow-up plan for all Americans presumably would require some federal financing, but the campaign was silent on that question. Details apparently would be worked out by the task force.

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Blumenthal said the proposed national plan was patterned after a Massachusetts system not yet 6 months old, which is to provide health care coverage to every state resident by 1992. Dukakis estimated the net cost at about $623 million through 1992; some critics say it will be twice that much.


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