August 16th, 2009
02:17 PM ET
5 years ago

Sebelius: There will be competition with private insurers


WASHINGTON (CNN) – A day after President Obama appeared to suggest that his administration might be open to health care reform legislation that does not include a public health insurance option, one of Obama’s top aides on the issue left the door open to accepting nonprofit health insurance co-ops, a proposal that has gained traction in bipartisan negotiations in the Senate Finance Committee.

“I think there will be a competition to private insurers,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, “that really is the essential part, that you don’t turn over the whole new marketplace [after health care legislation is enacted] to private insurance companies and trust them to do the right thing. We need some choices, we need some competition.”

At a town hall in Grand Junction, Colorado Saturday, Mr. Obama seemed to downplay the necessity of having a public insurance option in the final version of any health care reform legislation presented to him by Congress.

“The public option – whether we have it or we don’t have it – is not the entirety of health care reform,” the President said. “This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it. And, by the way, it’s both the right and the left that have become so fixated on this that they forget everything else . . .”

Echoing Mr. Obama’s Saturday comments, Sebelius also told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King that “what’s important is choice and competition.” A public option “is not an essential element,” the Cabinet secretary said Sunday.

North Dakota Democrat Sen. Kent Conrad has championed the inclusion of health insurance co-ops in health care reform legislation as an alternative to a public option. Conrad, who is part of a bipartisan group of six senators on the Senate Finance Committee hashing out the details of the committee’s health care reform bill, has repeatedly said that he does not believe Democrats have enough votes in the Senate to pass a bill that includes a public option.

soundoff (265 Responses)
  1. m jeff

    The only way the Insurance companies will lower premiums is through REFORM, they start you out with low premiums and within one year your premiums will double, that's because they are a bunch of greedy low lifes.

    August 16, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  2. Reggie

    Thank God they were not able to push their bill through congress before the break. People are finally starting to see how disasterous it would have been. As much as I hate to say it, thanks republicans for putting the brakes on this...

    August 16, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  3. dreamer

    wow sorry to see so many closed minds to compormise.and the important issue totally forgoton the 47 million are without isureance and if you ask how many are on public paid insureance half this country is already on a goverment run program.not the 85 percent proponants say our on private insureance.reform just going to make for it a better deal for all of us.private and public and keep them all honest.maybie that is what the debate should be about,and stop shaking finigers pointing out all they may think are flaws and lets talk what is best for our country. The best price , the best care.and the best care for everyone.Regardless if the big ceo's lose some bucks to the overseas share holders and the way over paid saleries.

    August 16, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  4. J.C.

    We, the People have to support President Obama for a public option in the health care reform. He has been fighting against private health insurance companies, but he needs your support. I am fully insured, but I want everyone insured as well. It's such a shame to travel to a smaller country and was told that they have nationalized health care coverage. We have endorsed greed at the expense of our people for too long. It's time we do the right thing – Support the Public Plan, which will only save us all money and stop private insurers' greed.

    IF a public plan is not an option in the reform bill, the government cannot make everyone participate. When swine flu flares up, even those that are against the public plan will suffer. Getting sick people to the doctors without worrying about costs is much more efficient in stopping the swine flu epidemic.

    August 16, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  5. katiec

    Co-ops have not been proven and will not work. However, those pushing them have requested BILLIIONs be given to them.
    We desperately need a reform health care bill passed. Presently,
    our welfare is in the hands of big business, lobbyists, special interests and those who support them with their bottom line
    being greed and power. Quite frankly, I trust government more
    than big business, as, with them in power, they have created
    diasters in every aspect.
    This is not the final plan. There will be numerous changes,
    deletions and additions. But, if we don't give this first step a chance
    there will be a continuation of the raping of the American people,
    numerous bankruptcies, even with those on insurance, and deaths that should never happen in our country due to unaffordable medical costs.

    August 16, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  6. Helen Sebastian

    There may be a few flaws in our health care system, but turning the whole health care system over to government control to get it fix is not the answer. Jobs and the current state of economy that is directly impacting ordinary people should be on the top of this administration's agenda. Until we feel secure about our livelihood, I don't think we are open to listen to anything that includes this magnitude of cost.
    We are losing hope and we not impressed with the change that we see. There is still time for this administration to get on the right track and be one with the people that it serves.

    August 16, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  7. MLH

    How come Medicare and Medicaid are okay, but a more inclusive public health option is not? Please Dems, stand strong. In some cases it makes sense to compromise, but a compromise that leaves out covering those of our citizens least able to help themselves is unconscionable.

    August 16, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  8. catmom

    After listening to Meet The Press and specifically Dick Army, I am more sure than ever that Republicans do not care about the American people. Dick Army stated that people are receiving letters now saying that if they don't sign up for Medicare, they will lose their Social Security,is that really true? When did that come about? Who has actually said that and when will that take place? Perhaps it is more spin by Republicans to scare older people.

    I am also wondering why the Republicans have now decided to vilify Medicare? Why are they claiming that it is one of the most inept programs ever. Perhaps they should talk to the millions of Medicare recipients to see if they want to give up Medicare. I wonder if they bothered to talk to recipients to see what their real feelings are? Why are they again trying to scare older people? Now I will agree that the Medicare Part D program given to the American people by Republicans and George Bush is in fact inept but the Medicare program itself, WOW !!! Once they get the fraud out of Medicare, most often perpetuated by the providers, perhaps it will become more cost efficient.

    It just seems to me that the Republicans have no intentions to help reform health care. Their intent is to do everything they can to destroy any support of reform by using every scare tactic they can. Now they seem to be targeting senior citizens who are the most vulnerable. How sad is that?

    A lot of us know that Republicans never liked Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or any other social program. Maybe they think it is the right time to get people to again vote against their own best interest and get rid of these programs for good. Especially since they have older people going to town hall meetings screaming for the government to stay out of their Medicare.

    August 16, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  9. Wise Latina

    On MTP today, Charlie Rangel was shown a town hall participant ask Obama the simple question, "how will you pay for all of this without raising taxes?" Rangel's response (no doubt pre-scripted by Rahm Emmanuel) said that he was tired of the hatred being spewed by such questions. There was NO "hatred" whatsoever in the question, but this does not matter to the Dems – it is their feable attempt to shift the focus away from such legitiamte questions being asked about this horrendous initiative.

    August 16, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  10. aCorNN watchdog

    Let's be careful here....the "robust" public option crowd may have these co-ops designed to accomplish the same thing.....end employer based health coverage...don't take them seriously until they bring tort reform AND put their bill on the table [in writing!!]

    August 16, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  11. k

    Health Insurance companies should be abolished, they are war and misery profiteers

    when they are abolished we will have a real great health care, the best in the world

    these animals take in 1/3 of all dollars and do nothing towards people getting better

    August 16, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  12. shawn

    Its nice to see that compromise in washington usually means taking the worst ideas from both sides and muddling together some junk.

    August 16, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  13. Jeanne

    Am I to assume that all of you that have posted, have health care and thru your employer?? That all of you are healthy and have no pre-existing conditions?? That you make enough money that if you leave your job or are not employed that you can afford the COBRA??
    Did you all see the article about the state of Michigan and Blue Cross Blue Shield?? You didn't? Well, the state negotiated the increase of 46% – 52% on premiums for individuals who aren't covered by employers down to 22%. Wow! what a deal!

    Oh, sure the insurance companies are offering anything right now, because they are scared that they will lose the billions of dollars in profits. So, you all don't want a public option, like a cafeteria plan that allows one to pick and choose and lets people have something that will hold the insurance companies feet to the fire.

    Do yourself a favor before you totally screw up the whole deal, go try to find insurance for an individual, and one for someone who has pre-existing conditions. I know I am one and in 2008 our insurance expenditure was $17,000 in premiums, copays and deductibles and the net that the insurance paid after deductible was met in December, was less that $1,000.

    August 16, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  14. Aunt Bea and Opie

    There better be a "Public Option" is all we have to say,get the job done,dont worry about the blue dogs,they will have their day in hades.

    August 16, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  15. Bonie

    That is PRESIDENT Obama to you. Show some respect please!

    August 16, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  16. ib

    Obama and his demo counterparts will say anything; do anything to get this gov. controlled plan through. I bet that if it passes after it passes it will be changed to be a total gov. controlled thing just like Obama wants because he wants the gov. to controll everything in our lives. I don't buy into these what I think are lies.

    August 16, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  17. D. Tree

    Its a real shame we have to bow to the GOP after they failed to offer any health reform solutions for the last 15 years.

    The public health option is proven to be effective for Federal employees, including many GOP congressmen.

    August 16, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  18. JJ

    Obama keeps telling us he's going to make health care, and by extension, health INSURANCE, affordable. But everyone knows that insurance is a waste of money – if you're spending money paying for mammoth profits for insurance companies and billions more on their employees' salaries and their benefits, then you aren't saving any money, and your money is being wasted. It's not going for your health, its going for profits. Sure, they take SOME of what you pay and spend it on your health, but lets all just agree that it would be more optimal to spend every penny on your health.

    Okay, so he's not getting rid of insurance companies which is a shame. Why not just agree that all of our medical bills will be paid? Instead of continuing on with this shameful profit based money-sucking sham that we have today?

    That part of the rant is now over.

    But back to what he CAN control – the costs of the scam that is insurance. It is NOT going to be affordable, or at least there is no EVIDENCE that it is. There is no price tag on the "public option". We don't know what they are going to charge for that. And the option of buying your health insurance through the exchange is ridiculous. If you have a two income family of four, (very typical) and you both earn the median wage, then you make about 90K a year. Not living in luxury in most parts of this country, especially in CA where I live.

    But Obamacare is suggesting that people in this situation, making 90K, would be forced to pay up to 12% of their income out of pocket, just for their health insurance PREMIUM. Excuse me, but if you are taking home only 90K a year, you are not going to be able to blow 1K a month or so on health insurance. Its too much! Remember that doesn't include copays or deductibles , that is just the premium.

    Most people buying insurance through their employers group plan don't pay anywhere close to 1K a month today, so that is a massive increase in the cost of obtaining health insurance.

    That's 1K a month that now can't be spent on college, retirement savings, or vacations.

    And under the plan, its not optional, the government will just steal it from you, if you don't pay it.

    So, high cost on private insurance (no wonder globalists love this bill – they are the ones who own the insurance companies), and no mention of what the "public option" might cost. Excuse me if I'm not on board with Obamacare. I know a good deal when I see one, and I'm not seeing one.

    Show me a good deal, and I will support Obamacare.

    August 16, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  19. 60's survivor

    Jesus was a socialist. the GOP got it wrong. Obama stand up for the downtrodden. the poor. the unrepresented. THE MIDDLE CLASS what is left. I support Obama.

    August 16, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  20. Richard

    Yeah Shannon, "My GUY" is having to clean up the tragic MESS left by "YOUR GUY" who didn't get it right to begin with. But don't worry, I'm sure YOUR GUY is having a great time on the ol' golf course with his buddy DICK-at the tax payers expense.

    August 16, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  21. Jac

    Wow, will all these people coming out of the woodwork stating "co-ops have been proven not to work" I guess that means it was posted on some loony liberal blog somewhere and the sheep are swallowing their pill.

    Well at least Dear Leader Obama finally understands that it was regular people at these town hall meetings and not insurance company executives.

    We should now try and get tort reform added to the bill, so the democrats have to squirm and explain why they need to bend to their ambulance chasing trial lawyer special interest group.

    August 16, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  22. chubby

    Hey BONIE, to me and many others it is Mr obama. I show him the same respect shown to President Bush.

    August 16, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  23. Leah in Florida

    ANTI-REFORM THUGS protest against health care reform because it is "socialized medicine."

    Well, Medicare is essentially the same system, except for older Americans only. A lot of the ANTI-REFORM EXTREMISTS are warning Obama "not to touch my Medicare." They really seem to like their government health care program, but not this one.

    ***REPUBLICANS USED THE SAME LIES and FEAR-MONGERING TACTICS IN 1965 IN THEIR EFFORT TO DEFEAT MEDICARE!!!!***

    Ronald Reagan: “[I]f you don’t [stop Medicare] and I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” [1961]

    George H.W. Bush: Described Medicare in 1964 as “socialized medicine.” [1964]

    Barry Goldwater: “Having given our pensioners their medical care in kind, why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts, why not a ration of cigarettes for those who smoke and of beer for those who drink.” [1964]

    Bob Dole: In 1996, while running for the Presidency, Dole openly bragged that he was one of 12 House members who voted against creating Medicare in 1965. “I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare . . . because we knew it wouldn’t work in 1965.” [1965]

    My fellow Americans who have a brain and morals, please don't let the CONSERVATIVE EXTREMIST FEAR-MONGERS set the agenda for our country!!!

    We lived through 8 years of these tactics with Bush/Cheney – don't be fooled again!

    August 16, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  24. sunshine

    mr. Obama??????

    August 16, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  25. Catmantwo

    The only system that can work and be affordable is a single payer system. One wonders who is in control? Its not the average American citizen.

    August 16, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
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