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President Prods On Health

Seeking his own say on the congressional agenda, President Clinton later Wednesday will urge lawmakers to step up work on efforts to improve health care.

CBS News White House Correspondent Peter Maer reports Mr. Clinton will use a White House appearance to urge Congress to approve new HMO rules, Medicare reform and other health care issues.

After pounding Republican tax cut and budget strategy over the past few days, Mr. Clinton will call for cooperation on his health care agenda.

He'll reach out for bipartisan support to preserve Medicare and Medicaid, reports CBS News White House Correspondent John Roberts. The strategy is still the same, to say he has the power of veto and for Republicans to walk away from any tax-cut proposal, including the deal he offered, is a cost they don't want to pay.

"He's urging Congress to pass a bipartisan health care agenda this fall," said a White House official who requested anonymity. "He'll say we should make this a fall of constructive achievement, not destructive politics."

Still, in this pre-election year, many health issues are political issues, reports Maer, including the future of Medicare and the so-called patients' bill of rights.

In an afternoon speech in East Room of the White House, Mr. Clinton will unveil a "health care checklist," which shows that none of his initiatives have yet become law. That includes giving patients new rights in dealing with managed health care, revamping and expanding Medicare, guaranteeing the privacy of medical records, providing new tax credits to help pay for long-term care and allowing people with disabilities to keep their health coverage when they return to the work force.

"He'll challenge them to pass a number of bills that have a real opportunity to pass Congress this fall," the White House official said.

Some of them enjoy substantial bipartisan support and are not far from reaching the president's desk. There's broad support for the disability-to-work legislation, for instance, which has already passed the Senate. And the Senate also came close to acting on medical privacy, but the measure got snagged on peripheral issues.

The hottest political topic may be patient rights for Americans frustrated with restrictions and cost-cutting in health maintenance organizations.

The Senate has passed a modest bill that the White House rejects as too limited. In the House, there appears to be enough bipartisan support for a bill backed by Democratic leaders that would do almost everything Mr. Clinton has asked for. The White House has already endorsed that bill, cosponsored by Reps. John Dingell, D-Mich., and Charles Norwood, R-Ga.

But GOP leaders have not said whether they will allow that legislation to reach the House floor, or to what bill they would lend their support. Lobbyists and congressional aides say they have not been told what House Speaker Dennis Hastert's next move will be, leaving unertainty in the House as Congress resumes work Werdnesday after the August recess.

In his speech, Mr. Clinton will urge Congress to leave off controversial GOP initiatives intended to expand access to health insurance for those without coverage. But those same measures may be needed to attract GOP support, complicating things for Hastert.

Mr. Clinton will also announce the approval of children's health insurance plans for Washington and Wyoming, meaning all 50 states now have approved plans.