August 17th, 2009
10:59 AM ET
5 years ago

Health care debate focuses on public insurance option

 President Obama has been pushing his health care reform plan at town hall meetings.
President Obama has been pushing his health care reform plan at town hall meetings.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – After weeks of battles over aspects of President Obama's proposed health care reforms, the debate focused Monday on one central issue: whether the U.S. government will offer a public insurance option.

The administration stepped back from its insistence on such an option over the weekend, with Obama saying it is "not the entirety of health care reform."

His spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said the president could be "satisfied" without it. And Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN's "State of the Union" that a public insurance plan is "not the essential element."

The move seemed to be a concession to critics, particularly Republican lawmakers who have assailed the idea of the government playing that kind of role. Yet it also stirred up frustration from those on the left who believe such an option is critical.

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Filed under: Congress • Health care • President Obama
soundoff (124 Responses)
  1. Sam Sixpack

    When the smoke clears, the only major change this healthcare "reform" will bring is the requirement that every American give their money to health insurance companies - in many cases, all they can "afford."

    Also, when you actually need care, Obama's "Independent Medicare Advisory Council" will refuse your treatment. if you don't believe it, you can check it out at the White House's website.

    Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Obama's Special Advisor for Health Policy, said it best when he wrote, "services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia."

    August 17, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  2. AXH

    Americans do not want Obamacare Health care reform!

    We do not want our taxes raised!

    Majority of Americans like their health-care.

    STOP ramming this bill down the voters throats!

    August 17, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  3. DA

    If the President and the Democrats back down on the public option, they will look weak and those Democrats that don't vote for it should look for a new job when they are up for re-election!!!
    I don't understand why the Democrats can not stand up for anything the leader of their party stands for!!! That is one thing we all can say about the Republican party, they stood behind their leader even though most of the crap he wanted was stupid and didn't benefit the American people ONE BIT!!!

    WE WANT A PUBLIC OPTION PERIOD!!!

    August 17, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  4. Blaine

    This is somewhat sad since a public option is, in my view, the best way forward. However, it's good to see the President willing to make necessary compromises to get a more palatable bill. Although I'm sure the obstructionists will follow shortly with their mindless drivel and social Darwinist agenda.

    August 17, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  5. No More Fear

    We want a public option
    We want a public option
    We want a public option
    We want a public option
    We want a public option
    We want a public option
    We want a public option
    We want a public option
    We want a public option
    We want a public option
    We want a public option
    We want a public option
    We want a public option
    We want a public option
    Now, one more time, just to make sure we are clear.
    We want a public option

    August 17, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  6. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    One bit of idiocy down–making tax-paying citizens pay for the health care of welfare bums.

    Subsidised health care is not a constitutional right, and there's obviously no support for making it, in contravention of the Constitution, an entitlement.

    If Obamacare can be whittled down to simply stopping the abuses of the insurance companies–pre-existing condition exclusions and dropping people who actually need the coverage they've paid for–and stopping the legal abuses of insane judgements and deep-pockets, opportunistic, law-suits, it may pass. If the Dems keep insisting that it become yet another welfare program, it will fail.

    August 17, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  7. Don

    It seems it is nor about options or ideas, it is about first and for most "Obama"..... A lot in this administration is about ego! And the change is a way to get America on a path to uncertainty and Europe-ization of the basic economic structure. This is not democrats against republicans, it is about "do we want the free enterprise capitalistic economy that is mainly in the USA and made the USA what it is to continue or do we want the USA to become a community so there are jobs for many organizers!"
    I certainly do not like the uncertainty and I know of no big system that is run by humans that goes through a major change and bad things do not happened to it! (In my youth I thought it was possible, but not anymore).

    August 17, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  8. Rick from Murfreesboro, TN

    We need the public insurance option. Without it there is no real reform. There are millions of us out here who can not afford the insurance rates offered by the megaindustrial health insurance companies. The Republicans have made it obvious that they do not speak for the millions of people who are too poor to afford the health insurance put out there by the companies which pay for their campaigns. It is time for people, even the ones opposed to the President's health plan that the mega industries do not care about them and that they are only numbers to them. Numbers who can be milked for their last dimes and then tossed aside when they actually get sick or injured and really need their insurance. This is a life or death debate going on. There are real "death panels" and they are all in the pay of the privage mega industrial health insurance companies!

    August 17, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  9. MCD, SF, CA

    The MAJORITY of the American People WANT single-payer or government-run health insurance. We should not let this process be hi-jacked by a very small minority who are acting like a bunch of bullys. Please, please let your representatives and the White House know this.

    Where are the polls on this? Why aren't we seeing anything?

    If we don't speak up we are going to end of with watered-down healthcare reform that is useless and not what the majority want.

    August 17, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  10. Deuce

    Your going to need a bigger bat, Mr obama.

    August 17, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  11. Deborah/Kansas City

    Everyone I know who has Medicare is very grateful. I as an RN, whose job it is to beg insurance companies for permission us to treat patients in the hospital, love Medicare. Medicare never needs to pre approve anything. We just treat the patient in the best and most effiicient way we know and that's it. I understand that there needs to be reimburstment adjustment.
    Why can we not just eliminate the age requirement for Medicare and allow younger, healthier, people to join? I already pay into Medicare each pay check; as do all working Americans. Establish a sliding scale for premiums. I would gladly contribute an extra 200 or 300 per month to join. That would get my employer out of my healthcare, which I want. My employer contributes $400 per month for my health insurance as part of my total compensation package, I contribute $300 per montyh; my employer chooses what insurance I have and all the Dr's in the plan work for my employer; all the hospitals in the plan are owned by my employer; I would rather have the $400 per month in salary and join Medicare. Think about it, Medicare is Nationwide, totally portable, and already has established practices, which just need to be improved. With younger healthier patients contributing to Medicare; it would make money and save it for everyone.

    August 17, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  12. Nuts

    It has been a good week for Sarah Palin and Obama's death panel health care system.

    August 17, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  13. Randolph Carter

    Just as I predicted. The stooges of the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies will water down healthcare reform and leave us an expensive boondoggle which really doesn't help the American people at all. Way to go, congress. Have a nice day!

    August 17, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  14. JM Canada

    Contrary to Senator Shelby's comment, the United States does not have the best health care system in the world. It ranks number 37 on the World Health Organization's list, just after Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, and just ahead of Slovenia and Cuba. You do, however, have the most expensive health care system in the world.

    Virtually every other country in the developed world has accepted the principle that health care is a right, and not a commodity. As a Canadian surgeon, and a proud supporter of our publicly funded single payer system, I find it remarkable that there is such vociferous opposition to the opportunity to reform a system that isn't working for so many Americans.

    August 17, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  15. kyle from ohio

    The move seemed to be a concession to critics,

    Or it could mean, once again the President is offering the Republican mostly but also both houses of congress to do their jobs and write a bill that is best for Americans (WE THE PEOPLE). There is obviously a group of Americans (WE THE PEOPLE) who are against the current bill but still know and need health care reform. as well as some who are for the bill with public options. so again this could be looked at as an opportunity for both sides of congress to do what they where hired to do and work together in the best interest of Americans (WE THE PEOPLE).
    P.S. Some if not most of the anger should be sent toward both side of congress, IF TORT or competition acress state line or any other piece is missing why are they not being offered up to the bill with the same can of energy being used to opposed bill, and do not till me about the Dem's do not need Rep's they have a majority, quit giving us the BULL. and DO your JOBS.

    August 17, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. katiec

    The American people want, support and demand public option.
    Without it health care reform will be a farce, once again, the
    raping of the American people.
    Co-op has not been proven and will not work, but the backers have
    requested billions of dollars be pumped into this option.
    By the way, Baucus has received $3.9 million from health care
    entities.
    We can no longer allow or tolerate politicians who put campaign funding, personal gains and interests over the welfare of the
    American people. We cannot allow big business and those who
    support them to continue to run, control our country and make
    crucial decisions for us.

    August 17, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  17. Chipster

    As a Democrat who campaigned very hard for President Obama and other Democratic candidates, I can only say that abandoning the public option for health insurance will be a very serious mistake.

    If the President fights the battle and loses, it's one thing but, if he abandons the 50 million people who will still have no health insurance, there will be no campaigning in the next election by me and many other Democrats. This is our best opportunity to achieve coverage for those who have been left behind. It's desperately needed in order to reduce the rising cost of health insurance and the drain on government funds.

    Without the public option, what's the point of passing anything? That's simply providing another private insurance option that the uninsured cannot afford. We will continue to pay and pay and pay for emergency care while people lose their homes, life savings, and die needlessly.

    August 17, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  18. lanray

    As an unemployed over 65 citizen, please leave my SS and Medicare alone. It is working for me as it stands. Sorry for all those illegals and too lazy to work people in this country - get a job or go back where you came from.

    How many free, expensive vacations are we going to provide this president and his family? None of them are setting the right example of any sacrifice during the nations time of recession and unemployment. Seems like they take a vacation every week.

    August 17, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  19. jfs Memhis, Tn

    We have three choices as I see it. We either offer a public option , Or we pay a private insurance premium for those who cannot afford coverage, or we pay into a co-op. Point is at the end of the day we will have to cover the uninsured . What ever it is I personally feel better that my great great grand kids will be paying for something beneficial and tangible as opposed the the TILLIONS spent in Iraq that those same youngsters are currently responsible for ...... A WAR that has No Tangible benefits other than the Oil Company's ........and the Chinese Oil Companies at that !!!!

    August 17, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  20. Mississippi Mike

    The public "option" won't remain an option for long. That's the whole point. We don't want another socialist program, especially not one where politicians and bureaucrats get to determine who gets what kind of care. This debate is a proxy fight over whether the government is allowed to have total control over citizens or whether citizens are allowed to make choices for themselves. That's where all of the outrage stems from.

    August 17, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  21. franco

    Enough with government intervention! What's next? How about a government run grocery chain to competed with Safeway, Ralph, Publix, Kroger. Or government run beer distribution to compete with Coors, Budweiser? We need health care reform, but let's fix what is broken and not overhaul what is not.

    August 17, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  22. Welcome to Rome

    Call out the fiddlers,the Corporate Fascists are destroying the country for their profit margin.

    August 17, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. Voted4HealthCare

    If the Senate Finance Committee is given such an important role in this legislation, why is it not given to the FULL committee, instead of just 6 members?! 2 of them are "conservative" Dems, making it basically 5 Republicans who are receiving funds from the corporate insurance lobby.

    Enough of the nonsense. Our country voted for a proportionate majority, and ALL committee members in the Senate Finance should be given a representative vote, as Americans elected them to do.

    All three House committees passed a bill including a majority-supported public option to improve competition for better health-care, and it is past time for the Senate to do the same for the American people.

    August 17, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  24. Johnny DC

    Those of you who think this debate ends with whether or not the government gets in the business of health insurance - there is more to the "no" side of this.

    A government supported, non-profit, potentially government-subsidized public option would DESTROY private healthcare.

    You liberal nuts can't seem to get this through your heads. It isn't a public "option". Having a public option at all will ultimately lead to there ONLY BEING A PUBLIC OPTION.

    Amazing how many of you think this is just about whether to offer another choice, and not about the destruction of yet another capitalist front.

    August 17, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  25. g ontario

    employer health care is not garenteed health care could be here today gone tommorow all it takes is a company to get into financialproblems there goes your healthcare better to have public option just in case

    August 17, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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