The New York Times leads with the news that some insurance companies are skirting the new law that’s supposed to guarantee available health coverage to millions of Americans who change jobs or who have pre-existing conditions. At the Los Angeles Times, it’s Promise Keepers and at the Washington Post, it’s Promise Keepers big-time.
The NYT insurance story is dramatic proof of a gaping hole in last year’s Kennedy-Kassebaum bill, which was viewed at the time as taking the first important step towards universal coverage: namely, the bill says insurance companies have to extend coverage to those they had tended to cut off, but it doesn’t say the companies can’t gouge them for it. (This is a feature Congress could have easily added. The Times points out New York state has had such a law since 1992.) For example, Design Benefit Plans charges 35 percent extra to individuals purchasing policies under the new law, and the paper quotes Rep. Pete Stark as saying that insurers in many states are charging $6,000 to people with pre-existing conditions.
The WP coverage of the Promise Keepers rally is all-out–three pieces on the front page and another six inside. The lead story credits name twenty Post staffers. The paper describes the event as one of the largest gatherings ever in the nation’s capital and one of the biggest religious gatherings in the nation’s history, and says the crowd numbered “perhaps a half-million people.” Although the official program was multi-racial and multi-ethnic, the WP says the attendees were “overwhelmingly white, reflecting the composition of the organization.” One woman comments to the paper that she was “surprised by how clean-cut and how educated” the Promise Keepers were. “I guess,” she adds, “that makes it even more scary.”
The LAT says the crowd appeared to number “well over half a million people” and that it “contained large numbers of blacks and other minorities, as well as wives and other women.”
The Post reports that when four women belonging to the Lesbian Avengers, which has protested PK rallies across the country, took off their shirts and marched bare-breasted into the crowd, a Park Police cop said, “Bare breasts are okay in the District.”
Lots of presidential sidebar stories today. The Post runs an AP dispatch revealing that a new biography of George Bush states that within days of naming Dan Quayle as his running mate in 1988, Bush wrote in his diary: “It was my decision, and I blew it, but I’m not about to say I blew it.” Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter co-author a Post op-ed calling for the end of soft money. The NYT takes a long look at Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimers disease. According to the piece, “the man behind the firm handshake and barely gray hair is steadily, surely ebbing away” and “appears to recognize few people other than his wife.” There’s also the detail that one of Reagan’s former White House physicians first suspected trouble when he had an odd conversation with Reagan in September, 1992–more than two years before his condition was publicly acknowledged.
And the WP reports that yesterday while attending a Secret Service demonstration at the agency’s training headquarters, President Clinton took the wheel of a Camaro and executed an evasive 180 degree turn. Evasive? 180? Bet he was good at it.