GOP Stakes Out Ground on HMOs

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WASHINGTON: The HMO debate may be the hottest one going in Washington these days, but the difference between the Republican and Democratic vision of a healthier America remains relatively fine: Democrats want to guarantee patients the right to sue, the GOP thinks unlimited suits are an invitation to waste money. For the GOP Friday, controlling the House of Representatives was enough to win the day.

Victory may be fleeting. President Clinton has hinted strongly he will veto the Republican plan, and its narrow 216-210 passage in the House doesn't gives the GOP much of a chance to override. But for now, the vote's the thing. Republicans can continue to rail against Democrats' fealty to trial lawyers, and Democrats can rail right back that the GOP cares more about big companies than about little people. In the very likely event that the two sides opt to nurse their differences rather than compromise (and actually produce some legislation), you'll get your chance to choose in November.