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Independent gubernatorial candidate Merrill Cook says he supports a modified "pay or play" comprehensive medical insurance program that protects small-business employers.

Pay or play specifies that employers either buy health insurance for their workers or pay into some kind of state or federal fund, which in turn provides the workers' health insurance."Large employers have no trouble with pay or play because they're already providing insurance," said Cook. "Surveys show that three-fourths of all small businesses with 25 or fewer employees are providing health insurance. The others may need special help by using strategic tax credits for small businesses."

Cook said President Bush "is dreaming" if he believes universal health care coverage can be achieved with nothing more than tax credits for health insurance.

"However, strategic tax credits for health insurance for the small employer combined with pay or play may work," Cook believes. Combining the best of the Republican plan - tax credits - with the Democratic plan - pay or play - and throwing out the worst of both plans may solve the health-care crisis.