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. Tell us something we havent known for years

    Teddy Roosevelt is the only President that had the guts to take on the Big Banks,Mellon,etc.Its time to pull out the big stick and do some homework on the foot draggers.

    August 16, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  2. A

    "The government should keep out of our healthcare. Socializing an entire industry is not the answer. Social security, medicaire/medicaid, the income tax code, etc are examples of how bad the government messes things up."

    So by this I take it that opponents of Health Insurance Reform also want to eliminate Social Security and Medicare which they regard as corrupt socialist entities. Grandma, are you listening? Guess who really wants to pull the plug on you?

    August 16, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  3. Mike in Texas

    Insurance costs keep getting higher and higher every year. More employees are having to come up with higher out of pocket expenses each year as plans continue to rise in cost. The $100 is taken out of your semi monthly check for insurance costs your company $400. Take that for an average. Say a company had 2,000 employees and had $200 a month deduction for insurance. The cost for the company for each employee would be $800/mo. Multiply that by 2,000 and you get $1,600,000. That is the cost to the company to insure 2,000 people.
    Out of expense costs are rising, deductibles....etc. Do you have the best health resources and technology? yes. the best service? Hell no.!! Doing nothing is not an option.

    August 16, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  4. Larry Kraus

    I don't care if there is a public option or not I only care that there is an option that doesn't say no to what my doctor says I need. Right now insurance companies say NO to operations or medicines I get prescribed by my doctor. No insurance company should have the power to countermand a doctor. More time than not the man or woman having the final say about my care makes that decision based on cost savings. that same person is looking at the bottom line of the company not my needs and they have no medical training. I am very lucky I am a retired state employee that had to retire early due to becoming disabled. I have three kids and one of them is uninsured and a second one will be in 8 days. Please pass the public option we need some way to hold the insurance companies feet to the fire so to speak. if you want to see true death panels look no further than the CEO and boards of directors of the current insurance companies.

    August 16, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  5. Robert New Concord, ohio

    We must have the public option and to insure it is fair to the private insurance companies we need it to be cost plus 10% profit to the Government. In my opinion that profit should go to help save either Medicare, Social Security or both. The other issue I think you have to have is either a public option for Doctors to get reasonable insurance rates and /or limit their liability if they make an honest mistake.

    August 16, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  6. Buck

    I distinctly remember Lyndon Johnson saying that Social Security was secure and soluble for at least 75 years.The only bigger joke was JImmy Carter.

    August 16, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  7. Mario L Castellanos

    Health care reform is not a Democratic or Republican issue. Both sides get big bucks from the parties that stand to loose on this issue. It is clearly, I repeat clearly, a greed vs. good issue. All one has to do is not listen to either side and read what the plan entails. The public option simply states that one will have the right to choose. That's it. And that is what scares the insurance, pharmaceutical and medical industries so much. Competition. Real competition. Oh, and of course the "governments" ability to oversea and better regulate the pricing and care these industries will have to provide.

    What I cannot comprehend is how gullible people are. Those of you that are saying you are against the reform: 1. Have you not stopped to wonder why their is so much misinformation and outrageous lies (death panels comes to mind) being put out and, 2. You ARE the government. So if the government (meaning you) is involved in YOUR health and care, isn’t that is a GOOD thing?

    Lastly, the anti-reform group (insurance, pharmaceutical and medical industries) insists that reform is necessary but not this one. They have however offered an alternative – the promise they will regulate themselves better!

    August 16, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  8. Chad

    Why does the GOP only support the people who have the means to support themselves? We pay the most out of any nation for our healthcare yet get little for our investment. You would think that this little nugget would really get under Reps. skin. Why doesn't it? Spending insane ammounts of money on something that doesn't net good returns usually gets the GOP's panties in a bunch. The reason is they have scared the crap out of the base, got them all amped up without telling them anything based on facts...all for the benefit of the private insurance companies. Thank you insurance lobbiests! Way to put profit over people.

    August 16, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  9. mahesh

    Our Government is brilliant.Example: Our tax money has been used for decades as susidy to corn growers to make corn syrup.Corn syrup is addictive just like sugar and leads to diabetes.It is used in Soda[10 teaspon per can] and thousands of products on grocery shelves it is actually worse than sugar as it interferes with insulin.Now they want to put more tax on Soda to pay for some stupid spending. All this makes sense to liberals who want me and other 's to pay for providing health insurance to irresponsible people.I paid maximum premium for medicare every year since it started and maximum premium for social security for 40 years, liberal democratic congress has spent it all and now wants to shave it to insure corn syrup high diabetics.

    August 16, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  10. Dyan

    When will Democrats wake up and realize that there is no bipartisan cooperation with Republicans? Even if they gave Republicans everything they wanted, they won't get a single Republican vote.

    August 16, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  11. donna - neptune

    john king needs to get his story straight, i heard the President say yesterday, the public option is a small part of the bill, i heard the health secy say the same, so where is cnn coming up with dropping the public option, cnn is losing all credibility reporting false information, they are becoming like fox news and rush limbaugh.....

    August 16, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  12. Larry

    Obama may have to change his stance. You can even say he lied. But at at least he isn't claiming "Mission Accomplished" or that there are WMD's. At least he is not sending our men and women off to a fraudulent war in Irag like the Republicans did. He is trying to save lifes not destroy them. He is trying to give us a chance to have the best health care system in the greatest country on this planet. A system that will be there for us and our children and our grandcildren and beyond them.

    August 16, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  13. Tom

    1. Tort reform
    2. Competition over state lines
    3. Fix the current system of Medicare/Medicaid, then include all
    uninsured Americans who sign up. If they have a pre-existing
    condition, but can afford to pay some of their premium, then use a
    sliding scale for them to pay. Same for those who do work, but
    can't get insurance from their employer. For the truly
    unemployed, we will need to find a way to pay for it. It's going to
    require some type of tax no matter how you look at it, but it would be
    a lesser burden NOT to have full blown socialized medicine.
    Requiring all Americans to carry health insurance will also mitigate
    The cost.
    4. NO OPTION FOR ILLEGALS. IF they end up in our emergency
    rooms, treat them, then DEPORT THEM!

    August 16, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  14. Larry

    For all you republican christians.

    WHAT WOULD JESUS DO ABOUT THE HEALTH AND WELL BEING OF ALL MANKIND? Tell them if they can't afford it, to bad?

    August 16, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  15. J.C.

    A Public Plan is an essential part of this health care or insurance reform. The people can never compete with private health insurance companies, which have the help of lobbyists and Congressional members.

    We definitely need a cap for health insurance premiums in addition to President Obama's 8 guiding principles for the reform.

    Raising premiums is the best tool for the private health insurance industry to get rid of non-profitable customers. The insurance industry promised to stop dropping or rejecting people, but they have not touched the magic premiums.

    The principle of insurance is to bet on a large pool of customers based on probability.

    If cherry-picking is allowed, it is no longer insurance. Unfortunately, we have more representatives in Congress for the insurance industry than for the voters so this illegal practice is allowed to continue for as long as it has. Raising premiums to drop costly patients should have been made illegal long ago. With a public plan, the whole nation would be the large insured pool. This is the most cost-effective system for the best health care outcome.

    We have been allowing the private insurers and their lobbyists to kill the hen for the eggs for too long. We will need the Public Plan to survive the fierce global competitions.

    August 16, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  16. Mike in Texas

    I still like sign about a balanced budget. Like Republicans know what a balanced budget is. Since Eisenhower we have had 5 Republican presidents serving a total of 28 years and how many balanced budgets did we get? ZERO!!! 0-28 gets you seat on the bench. Where were all these tea baggers when GW took a surplus into a deficit? Where were they when Bush signed the largest entitlement expansion since the Great Society with an unknown cost to boot? Where were they when Bush could not explain how he would pay for it? This isn't about cost or deficits to them. It's about who is calling the shots. They showed no outrage 6 years ago, so why are they now?

    August 16, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  17. Michiel W

    FYI The congressional insurance is through a co-op. And I would suggest tort reform as a starting point for insurance reform. I do not believe that no one should be able to sue for medical malpractice, however, I do believe there should be a cap as to how much can be awarded. Medicare should be included in any reform, along with Medicaid. Hospitals and healthcare workers charge higher fees to private insurance to make up for the low fee reimbursements from these government plans; provided of course that you can find someone to accept Medicaid. Then they is the fraud! If anyone thinks the expansion of these programs to include everyone is a good idea, just take a look at the percentages of fraud in both. It is stagering, and only what is actually known. Bringing down costs is the only real reform.

    August 16, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  18. Timothy

    Why not just nationalise pharmaceutical Patents, and fund it that way.

    Then you could have Public Health systems, but we own them and staff them ourselves.

    It might be completely unconstitutional to nationalise Intellectual Property ownership– that's for the Supreme Court to decide– but it's not like Public Safety systems, where Americans pay all the costs and only the Public Quarter gets served and protected.

    If we accept Public Health systems, they better serve those of us who are wretched hominids too.

    August 16, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  19. Sophia

    This is the best news I have heard in weeks.
    I AM one of the 80%+ that is happy with my private insurance and want to keep it.
    I am also one that does NOT want my tax dollars to pay for insurance for illegals, welfare hounds, and others that can afford it, but chose not to, but have money to buy big tickets items for themselves but still cry the pity pot...

    Very few people without insurance deserve help from the gov't...very few...the rest need to be responsible for their own actions and need to stop leaching off the taxpayers...

    August 16, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  20. MikeH

    The fundamental ignorance of the right-wing extremists, and their sheer hypocrisy is evident in the simple argument already made here that the U.S. spent billions on the Iraq war for no good reason and the right wing applauded.

    The other set of truths (how righ-wingers hate the truth) is that the U.S. ranks #1 in health care costs, yet ranks #37 in health care availability, and ranks #50 in life expectancy for industrialized nations.

    International Medical Charity organizations, used to going to places like Rwanda and Bosnia, now set up their operations in downtown Los Angeles to provide medical services to the working poor there. Aren't you Republican Pukes and Right-Winger extremists even remotely ashamed? Or are you so ignorant (ignant) that you will go to your (early) grave denying the reality before your eyes.

    Stop endless wars and start providing afforadable health car for Americans. There MUST be a Public Option to reign in the fat-cat insurance indutry.

    August 16, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  21. Cindy

    I totally am for what the Dems are trying to do with Healthcare.
    I have had it up to here with people being so against this. We should not be listenging to the Republicans at ALL on this. Republicans are so attracted to fear mongoring, it is all they respond to anymore.
    They let someone like Palin who quits her job to play on facebook, lie to them, and create a stir for the minions of idiots out there willing to listen to the lies. We should just stop listening to them, because if it wasnt healthcare it would be something else. You are never going to please these selfish bitter people.

    August 16, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  22. jesse

    If the numbers prove that in fact, 17 million or so people need and want coverage, how bout this? Since the federal government employees, numbering in the millions, have already negotiated rates and plans with private insurers for their own coverage, we should offer that very same program, call it 'federal citizens' program, to the uninsured. Make it sliding scale, and they will also all have their choice of different plans. Since the 'fantastic' coverage for federal employees already exists, why re-invent the wheel? Join up with the feds, get great rates, great insurance, and say hi to all pols in the waiting rooms for us!

    August 16, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  23. Kathy S. Cloughn

    My observation from taking my mom to the Mayo clinic: they are a system, not a series of services and they are designed to look for the unusual when diagnosing previously undiagnosed illnesses.

    What America needs is a SYSTEM folks. That what universal care is all about. A patchwork system with the uninsured using the ER as their doctor's office is expensive and doesn't work the best.

    Quit screaming, listen and lets get it together. Slovenia was able to, why can't the US???

    August 16, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  24. david sharpe

    I broke my ankle 10 years ago. Had to call an ambulance, $600 for a 1/2 mile ride! The emergency room only put a temporary cast on, since I couldn't walk on it, I was out of work for 1 week till I could go to a private doctor for a walking cast. Lost a lot of pay! At the hospital, they gave me a brand new pair of crutches, which are sold a drugstores for $50, they charged my insurance co. $150! I only needed them for 1 week. When i called to ask where to return the crutches, I was told, "oh, no, they're yours to keep." Things like this should be dealt with before the gov. starts throwing money at a broken system!!

    August 16, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  25. Tom

    Government "of the people, for the people, and by the people" is being rapidly changed to government of the people only – they're going to give us what they want to whether we like it or not.

    August 16, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
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