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Hillary Clinton Disputes Balanced-Budget Plan

THE rest of the administration may be focused on the North American Free Trade Agreement, but Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to sell her prescription for reforming the health-care system.

Her twin themes: A balanced-budget constitutional amendment is wrongheaded because it would imperil health reform, and the medical profession has its priorities askew.

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At the annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges, Mrs. Clinton said that balancing the budget ASAP would steal away money needed to finance her health plans.

The balanced-budget amendment, due for a congressional vote later this month, is gaining steam on Capitol Hill. If it passes, Congress presumably would be forced to strictly limit the growth of Medicare and Medicaid, two major programs driving the $240 billion deficit.

The Clinton health plan also includes limits on Medicare and Medicaid - but uses the proceeds to finance universal coverage, not deficit reduction.

Mrs. Clinton didn't save her criticism only for budget-cutters. She also knocked the medical profession and government aid programs for pushing young doctors into specialties at the expense of general practice.

Today, 70 percent of the practicing United States physicians are in specialities, compared with 30 percent in general practice; meanwhile, 85 percent of medical students are aiming at specialties, compared with 15 percent for general practice, she said.

This trend must be reversed, she said, because the primary-care physician is key to the administration's plan to provide coverage for all Americans. Perot to Continue Crusade

Ross Perot, the one-time presidential candidate scheduled to debate Vice President Al Gore Jr. today on the merits of NAFTA, has vowed to continue his crusade against the trade agreement despite warnings that six Cuban assassins might have been hired by a ``Mafia-like'' group to kill him.

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At a Tampa, Fla., anti-NAFTA rally on Sunday, the Texas billionaire said he is a target because the organized-crime group wants to be able to smuggle drugs into the United States in shipments of Mexican produce.

Justice Department spokesman Carl Stern confirmed that officials had tipped off Mr. Perot about a possible death threat, but he refused to comment on its legitimacy.

Perot has often complained of threats and plots against him in the past. In the early 1970s, for example, he claimed that Black Panthers hired by North Vietnam attempted to assassinate him. The claim was never corroborated.

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