WASHINGTON-The National Federation of Independent Business said it supports a health care plan proposed by Senate Finance Committee moderates, but not the bill sponsored by Finance Committee Chairman Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y. A further proposal being circulated by Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, R-Kan., and ranking Senate Finance Republican Robert Packwood of Oregon, may also find favor with the NFIB, a spokesman said.
The bipartisan health care compromise, coordinated by Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., represents ``the best chance'' Congress has of passing meaningful health care reform this year, according to NFIB President Jack Faris.
Currently, the Chafee proposal is available only in outline, according to Mike Roush, chief Senate lobbyist for the NFIB. ``But we know there are no employer or individual mandates, and no hard triggers (to start employer mandates),'' he said.
While the Chafee bill doesn't have everything the NFIB would like, Mr. Roush said, it does contain considerable insurance market reforms, as well as a mechanism to allow, but not require, the formation of health insurance purchasing cooperatives.
Among other things, the Chafee package also would phase in a 100 percent tax deduction for health insurance premiums purchased by the self-employed. It is designed to expand health care coverage to 95 percent of Americans by 2002, by providing subsidies to those below a certain income level.
The Dole-Packwood proposal, according to Mr. Roush, ``will be similar to the Chafee proposal, but less ambitious.'' Because of the prestige of its sponsors, he added, the Dole-Packwood bill ``will definitely not be inconsequential politically.''
On the other hand, the Moynihan bill the Senate Finance Committee began considering June 29 is almost everything the NFIB doesn't want. Although it allows for voluntary measures to achieve universal health care coverage, the Moynihan package would set employer mandates if 96-percent coverage were not achieved by about the year 2000.
Mr. Moynihan's proposal would also levy a 1 percent payroll tax on companies with more than 500 employees.
``We suspect that what Senate Finance finally passes will be very close to the Chafee bill,'' Mr. Roush said.
What the Senate and House will consider on their floors, however, is still open for debate. The bills emanating from the Senate Education and Labor and House Ways and Means Committee hold fast to President Clinton's idea of employers being required to pay 80 percent of the cost of their workers' health insurance.