Health Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. said yesterday the Carter administration is trying to create "a much broader coalition" for national health insurance by producing a plan that effectively controls medical costs.
"What we need is a much broader coalition than the one that's been supporting national health insurance before," he said on Face the Nation (CBS, WDVM).
"I think we can get that coalition by producing a plan that takes due account of the phenomenal inflation and waste in the health care system and that begins to bring that under control," Califano said.
Kennedy criticized President Carter health insurance advocates.
Califano's remarks came one day after he unveiled the 10 principles upon which an administration health insurance plan will be based and two days after those principles were attacked as inadequate by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), AFL-CIO President George Meany and a coalition of for "a failure of leadership" and said Carter's plan to phase in a comprehensive health insurance program only if certain economic conditions were met was "piecemeal" and "unacceptable."
Yesterday Califano repeated his belief that the Carter plan was not a piecemeal approach. But he defended the decision to phase in the full program over a number of years, saying that the only way to get a workable plan through Congress was to get control of inflationary medical costs.
He said this was something Democrats did not consider in earlier attempts to enact health insurance.
"For 30 years, the Democratic Party at the national level has tried to pass a national health insurance program, and has not succeeded," Califano said, commenting that Kennedy and others have introduced "any number of different bills" without marked success.
"We intend to introduce a piece of legislation that will have the opportunity of passing," he declared.
However, Califano said the administration was not severing its ties with Kennedy and company on the insurance issue.
"We are all traveling with Sen. Kennedy and those people who want national health insurance. We are all walking down the same path. We are all going to the same place, and we are going to get there at the same time," Califano said, without elaborating.
The HEW secretary also said that savings from controlling medical costs would be enough to pay for comprehensive national health insurance. He termed this contention "realistic" in lights of "billions of billions of dollars being wasted" in the present health care system.