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. Jim

    Obama is beginning to realize that he can no longer fool America as he did when he ran for president. He thought he could get away with it twice and continue to spew lies and that his blind supporters would just accept everything he says as gospel. Although there are still many who continue to believe all the lies the majority of Americans are now experiencing buyer's remorse.

    The facts are the facts and Obama and his ilk have stated publicly that ObamaCare is basically a Trojan horse for a single payer health care system. Obama and his Liberal buddies want to get their foot in the door of health care so that in 10 or 15 years the only option will be a single source government run health care.

    The government can not even get the cash for clunkers program right, or the post office, or Medicare, or social security, or the military or any other government run program and he wants us to believe that the government will be able to run what will be the largest government program in history.

    Even the Liberal can not name one "well run" government program.

    August 16, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  2. elkolo

    Healthcare in the hands of private insurers only, is like a body with no defense to fight viruses.

    August 16, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  3. Voltaire

    Ok, here we go, just give up to the repubs and their status quo logic. "i dont want a beuracrat deciding my health options, id rather have a buisness man doing it". Stupid. Health care and for-profit dont mix, its actually unjust. But in the name of bipartisanship lets water down this idea until we are left with that we allready have. I know i love paying 300 per month for my insurance, and they are always finding ways to get out of paying for services, now thats good buisness, but not good healthcare.

    August 16, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  4. Patty

    Competition is good in any phase of economy. It keeps regulation without regulating laws.
    When mandatory car insurance was approved, it became a "national" competitive price.
    Open up 'Heath care' options to a ‘national’ level.
    State regulations of health care have only left us in a monopoly with little or no competition.

    August 16, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  5. D. Tree

    Ivy League School compete against the State University system and FedEx competes with the Post Office. We have plenty of examples where competition exists between public & private interests.

    In fact – we ALREADY KNOW that the Public Option works with Private insurance, because our Senators and Congressmen have been using such a system for years!

    Even the Republican Senators who oppose a public option like to have one for themselves!

    August 16, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  6. chubby

    Hey SUNSHINE, no its Mr. obama. We show the same respect to him you and others showed President Bush. Mr obama is finally coming aware that this country does not want his liberal policies which is evidenced by his tanking poll numbers. I thought Mr obama would be the second coming of jimmy carter but I am afraid he is worse.

    August 16, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  7. Welcome to Rome

    No to TORT REFORM,200,000 people die each year from mistakes made by doctors,nurses,hospitals,and insurers that only want to get rich.They buy or cheat on their med exams,or get their rich mommie and daddy to buy their way through med school.Plus all the insourced doctors that buy their degree at walmart.

    August 16, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  8. JFK

    Jim, you might want to increase your dosage of medication along with the rest of the mental ward patients that listen to Rush, Hannity, and the gang. You just sound PARANOID!

    August 16, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  9. Bonie

    No, we don't have the best health care in the world, just the MOST expensive. We get the MOST healthcare, but not the BEST. We pay 77% higher for drugs thanks to big Pharma. We are 34th in longevity due to poorer outcomes. We are something like 29th in infant mortality. At the rate insurance premiums are rising relative to wages, in ten years we will pay 50% of our income for health insurance. The insurance companies are in the pockets of both republicans and Blue Dogs. These rallies are not grassroots. They are organized by such far right organizations as Freedomworks, with their scare tactic talking points and the instruction to "terrorize" Blue Dogs over the break. Come on people...use the brain God gave you to listen to the truth and separate them from the facts and think for yourselves rather than as a sponge to soak up the far right's scare tactics!

    August 16, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  10. Freemas

    Left-wingers, you have lost. The American people have spoken and the government option is dead. Move along to some other objectionable cause.

    August 16, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  11. Sebastian

    Dear Mr. President and Sec. Sebelius,
    I don't know if this comment will mean anything, but PLEASE, whatever you do, include the public option in the new health care legislation. Its the ONLY way to rein in insurance companies, in my opinion.
    Thank you ...

    August 16, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  12. The Real Anna From MS

    For all of you who had read any comments from Anna Spivey last Sunday from MS, well, THOSE WERE NOT MY WORDS. I am furious that someone could go into this blog site and slander me which has caused me great pain in my life. I cannot believe CNN would allow such horrible things to be written. I hope that this does not happen to anyone else and that bloggers may think twice about being so ugly towards others. My name was mentioned 28 times in a span of 4 hours and I believe CNN owes me and my wonderful family an apology. I have been called a racist among other things and those who really know me would laugh at all of the words "i supposively had written" I am truely sorry for all those who were offended because it offended me. I do know who did this things and plan on pressing charges. Its called cyberstalking!!!!

    August 16, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  13. Jabli Izvesti

    Having almost lost the battle on the public option,Obama is obviously demonizing the private health insurers only to appear to his leftist bros that he is going down fighting valiantly.It is as if the insurers killed his grandmother !!!

    August 16, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  14. Trang

    I am disappointed. I would rather they stay strong w/ their message, and if they don't have their votes – so be it. But to water it down is disappointing – it's as if they have no principles.

    August 16, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  15. jnywest

    There was no confusion during the election. It was made very clear by both canidates what we where voiting for. A vote for McCain was a vote for the status quo, a vote for Obama was a vote for a federal public option available to all.
    WE VOTED TO MAKE HEALTH CARE A RIGHT! That means a PUBLIC OPTION.
    The dems better not chicken out now becuase of some crazies and corupt senatiors. I dont care if Obama has to wright a public option into the bill with a crayon, it better be in there or he will loose his base in 2012, he will have betrayed us all...

    August 16, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  16. Drew Williams

    Bah, to the conservative, this whole issue is only tangentally about healthcare. What it serves largely as is a convenient platform to oppose a Democrat, who just so happens to be Obama this time around. Next time it will be something else, but make no mistake, the conservatives will oppose it, whether it involves the "socialism" boogeyman or another issue.

    But facts are stubborn things ... right now, private insurance companies decide who gets treatment and who doesn't, who is dropped from coverage and who isn't, who gets medication and who doesn't.

    And the cries of "socialism! socialism!" from people who attended public schools, received free innoculations, accepted unemployment compensation when needed, drive on public highways, allow their parents to accepts treatment from MediCare of the VA? Probably the most poorly informed cries I've ever heard.

    August 16, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  17. JFK

    Richard, you hit the nail on the head. So many of the GOP got themselves worked into a tizzy of over this that this missed the point. Oh well, you cant help people that are too dumb to accept it. You also cant help people if they are going to follow Rushs every preaching and then march on the streets to protest. They think they are patriotic but in hindsight, they will just be puppets for the Right to manipulate and prevent needed change. THE PARTY OF NO STRIKES BACK!

    August 16, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  18. John King The Tool

    I've been noticing a pattern with John King everytime a democrat or an administration official get on CNN King is borderline rude with his interruptions and line of questionning. But King allows republican congressman to get away with talking points and does not push them to answer the question. He was very rude to Sebelius and I wonder what's his beef. The same was true when congress woman Johnson was finishing her point in the end of the session he cut her off after a couple of sentences to let republicans get an extended dialog.

    What's up with that CNN? Are you guys playing to the republicans talking points or are you really fair and balanced in your reporting. Personally, I spend less time watching cnn because of the reporting and because of people like Dobbs ( I switch channels the minute he comes on) who make me want to hurl. Fareed is the show on sunday's I look forward to. The rest sucks big time.

    August 16, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  19. The real Mike in MN

    If we aren't going to get a single payer plan or a public option, which are two completely different things but apparently a good number of you can't grasp that, then there's no point in continuing the debate and once again the republicans will have won thanks to outright lies and scare tactics.

    August 16, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  20. Jerry

    I see the politics of hate and emotional manipuation being outflanked by rational and focused intent. There is a light at the end of the disgusting tunnel we have been in since party attack became accepted tactics. This President will get a health care bill. It may not end up as the best solution but he will move the ball down the field. Sometimes that's the best you can do.

    August 16, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  21. John Illinois

    What the people want is for the costs to go down on insurance. Everything the government runs turns to garbage and costs us taxpayers a fortune; medicare is bankrupt, SS is just about gone, etc.. He has no way to pay for this stuff and he knows it. He already stated that there will be new revenue sources needed to pay for this; that is raising taxes on everyone which would have to be the largest tax increase in history. This plan will destroy the health insurance industry if there is a socialized government run option because any company that has people with half a brain will cease offering health benefits because it would be cheaper to pay the BS penalty tax; the shareholder would demand it because after all you invest in a company's stock to make a profit. Quit spending our money for GOD's sake!

    August 16, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  22. JFK

    Hey Chubby, the Left was protesting a needless war in Iraq. Thousands if not millions died!! Health care reform isnt a war that you needed to wage here but you did. Thanks for your input!

    August 16, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  23. joe

    I find this so difficult to understand, how can we be making a decision on a bill that seems like a "work in progress" – why has Mr. Obama chosen to bully congress into passing bills so quickly without fair/rational thought to the crafting of these bills. Mr. Obama is starting to show that his lack of experience for the office he holds and people are waking up to the realization that he is in fact trying to pull the wool over our eyes and provide us with socialized/rationed health care. The document clearly states that the government will decide end of life care, will assist doctors in making decisions and will • Page 30, line 23 — There will be a government committee that decides what treatments you get. This bill is all about control and this President has shown he wants to control EVERYTHING; Auto's Wall Street, Pay, everything. The language of this bill is certainly ambiguous and given it is open to interpretation, once we let the government in, they will do what they want because the language of the bill will allow them to define it how they want – regardless of what Mr. Obama is trying to sell us in his road trips! This bill should NOT pass if so much is left up to interpretation.

    August 16, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  24. JZ

    Insurance companies are spending 100s of millions to protect their billions. The public option is the only real answer. Have courage!

    August 16, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  25. Patrick Kelly

    Any politician who has hopes of getting elected or re-elected has no hope whatsoever if he or she is not working toward a government backed social health care plan. I don't know why the republicans can't see this. NOBODY, except the wealthiest 10%, is going to vote for a republican after the mess George Bush and company have left us in. Pat Kelly....

    August 16, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
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