MASS. HEALTH BILL STEALS SPOTLIGHT FROM AUTO REFORM

MASS. HEALTH BILL STEALS SPOTLIGHT FROM AUTO REFORM

Property and casualty insurers in Massachusetts are unhappy that a universal health insurance proposal is dampening attention to what they see as needed automobile insurance reform.

Health insurance is drawing attention away from auto, said Robert F. Cox, associate vice president of the Alliance of American Insurers. We wish it didn't.The health insurance issue is sexier to the press and state lawmakers

because its passage was seen as a prime objective of Gov. Michael Dukakis, who leads in some polls for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Passage before next Tuesday appeared unlikely as balky lawmakers opted to attend a fund raiser for one of their own rather than take an important procedural vote Tuesday.

The House of Representatives, which killed two state health insurance bills last year, scheduled the postponed vote Wednesday, but differences with the state Senate over the current proposal need resolution.

Health insurance lobbyists Tuesday and Wednesday scurried about the State House trying to buttonhole lawmakers to change portions of the complex bill.

The bill has several controversial clauses, including mandated fertility treatment and coverage for college students, and unemployment insurance surcharges for companies with more than six workers that don't pay for 50 percent of employees' health insurance by 1992.

Despite an attempt at unity, opposition to the governor's slimmed down 1988 measure remains.

Meanwhile, auto insurers see hope for rate increases - one predicts double digits - when state Insurance Commissioner Roger Singer rerules on 1988 rates next week.