The National Governors' Association has established a task force to work with Clinton administration officials and Congress to ensure that the federal government is taking states' concerns into account in developing a plan for reforming the nation's health-care system.

President Clinton intends to present to Congress later this year a reform package designed not only to make sure adequate health care is available to all citizens, but to control rapidly increasing costs.

Primarily, the governors want to make sure the states that forged ahead on their own to institute health-care reforms will be able to keep their new systems in place.

"The governors expect a great deal of flexibility for states when it comes to health-care reform," said Rae Bond, press agent for the governors' group.

In February, the members of the National Governors' Association voted to adopt a health reform policy that focuses on universal access and controlled costs by establishing a national health-care board to regulate state-run reforms. A separate policy urges the federal government to address problems in the Medicaid program. These are the concerns the association task force will bring to the negotiation table.

Because state and local governments pick up a portion of health-care expenses under federal programs, changing the nation's health-care system can have a direct effect on state and local finance. In 1991, state and local governments spent about $100 billion on health care.

Thirteen states have enacted their own health-care reform legislation. Virginia, for example, has expanded Medicaid eligibility for children. The state also has begun offering scholarships to students who agree to practice medicine in under-served areas after graduation. Virginia has also set up a commission to study the possibility of providing state residents universal access to health care.

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