PARCA's chances of passage appear to be dimming, despite Norwood's claim that his bill would get at least 300 votes "tomorrow." But is Norwood whistling the tune played by the band on the Titanic? The bill's cost and the bureaucracy it would create have fostered defections in the House. In addition, a stumbling block has emerged in the Senate, where the number of cosponsors of a companion bill introduced by Republican Al D'Amato of New York has yet to reach double digits.
PARCA also took hits from the Congressional Budget Office and the Health Benefits Coalition. A CBO study estimates that consumer rights legislation, including PARCA, could increase employer health spending by 0.3 percent a year, costing the government $1.5 billion over five years--principally because of the tax deduction for employer-sponsored health insurance. The Health Benefits Coalition, an ad hoc group of 31 organizations representing more than 3 million companies, came up with estimates that Hill insiders say would be anathema to most Republicans: PARCA would impose 207 mandates on the health care system, require 60 new sets of federal regulations and cost almost $1 billion a year in medical liability suits.