FOREIGN FIRMS MAY THRIVE UNDER CLINTON HEALTH PLAN

FOREIGN FIRMS MAY THRIVE UNDER CLINTON HEALTH PLAN

One of the biggest winners under the proposed Clinton health-care reform plan will be foreign companies operating here that will have all their employees in the United States covered under the program, according to employee benefits consultants.

Such multinational companies have been forced in the past to cope with a complex web of U.S. health insurance offerings that contrast with the national health-care programs provided by most of the world's other industrialized nations, the consultants said.Bob Braddick, a principal with A. Foster Higgins, an international employee benefits and human resources firm, said the standardized health insurance offered under the Clinton plan will demystify the existing set of choices for foreign multinationals.

"I think it will be attractive to multinationals outside the U.S. that have U.S. operations," Mr. Braddick said. "They have had to deal with a very complex and costly health-care environment here."

Charles Ginsberg, managing director of research and trading services with Alexander Consulting Group, the human-resource consulting arm of Alexander & Alexander Services Inc., said the Clinton plan will cover U.S. citizens, aliens who are permanent U.S. residents, and long-term non-immigrant aliens.

The issue of how the Clinton plan affects the overseas employees of U.S. companies is less clear.

"U.S. citizens working for foreign companies who reside overseas are not covered," Mr. Ginsburg said. "These U.S. citizens would be covered by whatever insurance is offered by their employer."

Mr. Braddick said, "U.S. companies often give their foreign employees equivalent health care when they are based overseas."

Since health maintenance organizations offered as one of the health-care options under the Clinton program do not exist overseas, U.S. companies operating abroad will be forced to provide coverage through traditional indemnity programs that typically charge higher premiums, he said.

"Delivery systems vary from country to country," Mr. Braddick said. "We are one of the few countries that does not have a government-based system that covers all citizens."

The three delivery options offered under the Clinton plan are:

* Health maintenance organizations.

* Traditional indemnity insurance.

* A hybrid plan that combines features of HMOs and traditional insurance.

"The Clinton plan may set a standard from which the U.S. expatriates will renegotiate their contracts," Mr. Braddick said. "U.S. employers will be paying much more money in some cases under the Clinton proposal than they do now."

In one instance, Mr. Braddick said he knows of a multinational company that pays 5.7 percent of its payroll for health insurance. The Clinton plan may require it to pay up to 7.9 percent of its payroll or more, he said.