In his response to President Clinton's State of the Union address, Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) gave a glimpse of the Republican party's healthcare reform strategy in the coming months when he said the country "has healthcare problems, but no healthcare crisis."
For the past several weeks, GOP leaders have been fueling partisan flames by arguing that there's no healthcare crisis and that a comprehensive reform plan isn't needed.
Speaking at a meeting of Republican lawmakers last week, Gail Wilensky, who was HCFA administrator in the Bush administration, warned that the perception among the public that a healthcare crisis exists "justifies radical changes with unknown consequences."
Ms. Wilensky also told Republican House members that guaranteeing universal healthcare coverage "will take you down a path that is potentially highly regulatory and very expensive."
As an alternative, Ms. Wilensky suggested a series of "targeted" changes centering around insurance market and malpractice reform and antitrust relief for healthcare providers.
That theme was echoed last week by Mr. Dole. "We can fix our most pressing problems without performing a triple-bypass operation on our healthcare system," he said.
The Republicans' retrenchment isn't without political peril. Provider groups immediately criticized their move. Without naming names, American Hospital Association President Richard Davidson said, "Those who say we don't (have a healthcare crisis) should spend an hour or two in a hospital emergency room."
Another area the Republicans will target in 1994 is the financing of the Clinton administration plan. Last week, Republican members of the Joint Economic Committee released a report criticizing the plan's proposed financing.
The report contended the Clinton proposal was underfunded by more than $1 trillion in the first seven years of the plan. It said market forces won't reduce healthcare prices and that the increased demand caused by universal access will lead to higher spending.
Administration officials dismissed the report as a political attack and said they stood by their original projections.