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Kennedy, McCain team up for HMO reform

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House will confront yet another legislative challenge next week from Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who will team with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, to introduce new legislation to reform managed health care, sources told CNN on Thursday.

A senior White House official confirmed that President George W. Bush and his team were having to rethink their message and legislative approach to deal with the McCain-Kennedy tandem.

The Bush team had hoped to devote most of next week's "message" to the president's tax cut proposal, but will now have to respond to the McCain-Kennedy managed-care legislation.


"Now we've got McCain stirring around on managed care, so we'll have to deal with that," the senior official said.

A Kennedy aide said the legislation will differ slightly from the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell bill that passed the House in the 106th Congress. The aide described the Kennedy-McCain bill as "Norwood-Dingell light."

The aide said that while the legislation will cover all 161 million Americans enrolled in managed-care programs, it will also feature a cap on liability awards in medical lawsuits.

Republicans sought such protections in negotiations with the Clinton White House, but no agreement could be reached. The legislation will also include beefed-up employer protections to discourage frivolous lawsuits, the Kennedy aide said.

After attending a White House event devoted to the unveiling of Bush's plan to help disabled Americans, Kennedy said he would soon set about striking a compromise with the president on managed-care legislation.

Bipartisan agreement has been hard to come by in the Senate on the issue. Republicans, led by Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles, rallied around a GOP bill that did not cover all Americans enrolled in managed care and lacked other provisions Kennedy and the Clinton White House deemed essential.

The House, however, passed the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell bill when nearly 70 Republicans defied their leaders to support the bill. Negotiators failed to merge the two bills in conference.

A bipartisan approach in the Senate, especially with the visibility brought by the Democrats leading legislative tactician and the Republican with a large national following could add momentum to the managed-care debate.

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Health Insurance Association of America
Congressional Budget Office

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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