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No Bedtime Reading, But Weighty Volumes a Marketing Success With PM-Health Books-Box

November 12, 1993

Undated (AP) _ The reviews are in for the Health Security Act: The Book.

″Compelling ... Perot-esque graphs and pie charts ... Some people might be moved to tears 3/8″- Ron Hadar, law student.

″Fluff 3/8 ... Brushes over hard-core issues 3/8″ - Louis Feinholtz, consultant.

″Even those who wrote it are going to be surprised at what it means 3/8″ political science Professor Robert Huefner.

Mixed notices are the lot of many books, especially must-reads like the Clinton administration’s formal manifesto for its health care revolution.

By government standards, the proposed law is a marketing hit - both versions. Two weeks after release, the government had sold 11,500 copies of the Health Security Act (1,342 pages; 4 pounds, 6 ounces; $45) and 21,000 copies of the more-digestible ″Health Security: The President’s Report to the American People″ (136 pages; 10 ounces; $5).

An additional 1,000 copies each of the law and the report were copied onto personal computers through FedWorld, the government’s computer gateway to many public documents.

And Times Books in New York has sold almost 200,000 copies of ″The President’s Health Security Plan,″ containing the shorter report plus a draft of the proposal leaked Sept. 10, all for $9.

While demand for the government’s hefty law-in-full fell to a trickle this week, its easy-reading president’s report is still selling well, said Carlyn Crout, spokeswoman for the U.S. Government Printing Office.

″In terms of what we consider short-term hot items, it’s certainly right up there with any of the best we’ve had - the budget, the Challenger report, the tax revisions of a couple years ago,″ Ms. Crout said.

Whether through mail order, computer download or the government’s 24-outlet chain of bookstores, consultants, lawyers, lobbyists, bureaucrats and motivated citizens have been lugging and snapping and calling up the texts.

Every night since Karl Albrecht bought the full text, after he puts his 18- month-old son to bed in Southfield, Mich., he retreats to his study, tunes his radio low to mellow music, takes out his highlighter pens and reads.

Reads hard.

The material is dry. The sentences are long. With all the references to other statutes, a law library would help.

″You have got to be in a dead-quiet room so you can concentrate″ said Albrecht, who works as an intermediary among an insurance company, insurance agents and their clients.

He takes notes about points he doesn’t understand. ″I’m not sure where I’m going to get answers to the questions I have.″

The shorter version that Hillary Rodham Clinton is pushing in what amounts to a national book tour was apparently written with the mortal reader in mind.

Colored ink and charts highlight the text, which is filled with vivid stories calculated, as with any good book, to resonate with readers’ own health insurance experiences.

But at least one reader interviewed by The Associated Press found the shorter version short on information.

″Fluff,″ pronounced Louis Feinholtz, an in-house consultant for a New York insurance company.

″It could have got into more details, and I thought there were parts that weren’t necessary, like ‘Why Change’ (the first chapter).″

Ron Hadar, a 25-year-old law student at the University of Colorado at Denver, read both versions doing research for a client of the law firm where he clerks.

He prefers the shorter report. Hadar was especially touched, he said, by its accounts of people like A.B. of Pleasanton, Calif., whose two young sons have cystic fibrosis.

″In the blink of an eye, my two beautiful, healthy boys became part of our worst nightmare,″ A.B. says in the book. ″We live in constant fear of losing our medical coverage.″

The book, he said is ″very compelling and makes the best case for the Clinton plan.″ He also liked what he called ″flashy″ and ″Perot-esque graphs and pie charts.″

″The best part are the stories they put in. That gets you on an emotional level. ... Some people might be moved to tears by some of them.″

While the shorter version enjoys better reviews, for its lucid and vivid prose, don’t look too deeply for meaning.

Political science professor Robert Huefner, who specializes in health policy at the University of Utah, found the report ambiguous - an analysis buttressed when he heard doctors disagreeing on what their rights would be under the Clinton plan.

″Even those who wrote it are going to be surprised at what it means,″ Huefner said with a chuckle.

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