August 17th, 2009
10:59 AM ET
9 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. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    ACORN, the unions and and the other liberal organizations tryng to steal the money of hard working americans have not really been heard from yet. I am sure they see the chance to steal billions of more taxpayer dollars to support their dope smoking, non working constituencies and they will be around all this fall. George Soros said he made billions on this recession so he can afford a few million more to make sure this country is a failure.

    August 17, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  2. dominican mama 4 Obama

    Please do not concede or the reform won't be worth the paper it's written on. It'll be a watered down form of what is needed, with absolutely no major impact. We'llbe right back to 1995 with Clinton and his half-ass attempt. He conceded also.

    August 17, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  3. ETM

    Health care is a human right and we must recognize it as such by insuring that every American has access to decent, adequate medical treatment. If a public option is the best way to secure this, we should insist upon it.

    It is preposterous to attack Obama's plan as socializing medicine for the elderly. The elderly ALREADY have a government plan–it is called Medicare, and they have done fine with it. When will right-wing demogogues stop lying about this?

    August 17, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  4. Geralyn

    I will not vote for Obama in 2012 if there is no public option in a reform package.

    It is time to stop with trying to be " bi-partisan". The Republicans only want Obama to fail and if he drop's the publicoption the republicans will claim victory. Those of us who are desperatley in need of some relief will get none and health care reform will be nothing but a joke.

    And, FYI, for all you right wing people..I work 45 hours a week and I have been working since the age of 14, I am 52 now. So, keep spewing your tirade about lazy liberals wanting a free ride. I am far from lazy and I don't want anything for free. What I do want is an affordable plan that actually covers something. A public option would force private insurers to compete. I thought you right wing nut jobs liked competition?

    August 17, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |

    we need to realize that ,that people who cannot afford to buy health insurance are not all boms and drugies. my husband is a medical provider,an ear nose and throat,for the past 40 yrs. i work in his office and i am very familiar with the ins industries.many people who come to our office and do not have ins. are white and working people with families.they just cannot afford the high premium costs of all these commercilal insurances,whether the ins co. get between you and the doctors or the goverment,it is all the same.people need help to get affordale ins.we need please first do your homework and then gp out there and protests.

    August 17, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  6. DL

    Without a public option, this isn't reform at all. It's just more 'no bid' contracts to the insurance companies. Same nonsense Bush did with Medicare D with the drug companies, same mess with Haliburton in Iraq. I see all these people here screaming tort reform...obviously you aren't aware that many states passed tort reform YEARS ago (Tx is a great example) you don't notice a change cause it didn't change anything. It protected negligent Doctors and rates still skyrocketed (do the research). Everybody cries their taxes will go up...even if they do, it won't be remotely near what insurance rate increases will cost you...people need to start looking past the tip of their noses and their immediate greed, towards a LONG term solution. This is just starting to sound like more of the same. I guess the insurance lobby spending 57 million to influence those that only seem to be able to think in the short term worked. When it collapses (it's not 'if' it's 'when') I hope the poor pull together and show you the same compassion you've shown them.

    August 17, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  7. Cptn

    If those "astroturf " protesters as Democratic officials call them do not make a difference they can ram through that public option. I think this is pretty clear that Obama has seen the negative effects and is smart enough to have backed off and approach it differently. I still don't trust he will do the right thing but he sure has everyones attention now.

    August 17, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  8. ETM

    Will the dummies who keep saying that the gov. should leave their Medicare alone please realize that Medicare is a GOVERNMENT health care plan!!!

    August 17, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  9. Tina, NC

    Doing away with a public option is a big give away to the insurance companies. Now we are going to require all Americans to have insurance with no real cost controls. I recall during the Democratic primaries that one of Obama's favorite arguments against mandates was the fact that you couldn't mandate coverage without driving down the cost of health insurance.
    Since the Republicans, blue dogs, and now the President want to sell us this steaming pile of junk they should now have to explain why we are going to be mandated to be taken advantage of by the health insurance industry. They should also have to explain how they are going to pay for it and how much it will cost. Will it add more or less to the deficit than a public plan? How will it force competition? What role does state regulations play in this?

    I'm disgusted by the spineless Democrats! If a public option is not included in the final bill I am changing my registration to Independent.

    August 17, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  10. AZ Jake

    Health reform without the public option is just kissing the conservative's bottom ... line.

    August 17, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  11. Bpin

    81% of US citizens have health care and 74% of those are satisfied with what they have. Out of the 19% that do not, 11% of those could have health care but refuse to pay for it. The 9% that do not have access have facilities available that will treat them at no cost.

    Not good enough. We need to pay for all 19% of those that are not covered to have as good health insurance as we, that pay for it and sacrifice to do so, do. If Obama's plan goes through as designed, private insurance companies will have to pay for this 9% and we that work can payfor this too and this will cause health care cost to come down. I got it,more freebies towards Obama's hope of making everyone middle class regardless of if they work or not.

    Boy, he must be smoking some pretty good stuff in DC. I have heard that all the best is available.l

    August 17, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  12. Shekar

    The world's president backing down from what he said with full majority in both houses! That is an out rught defeat to him by all means.

    He is good in reading telepromter (Thank god soem good script writters) other wise he is an Empty vessel.

    August 17, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  13. donttreadonme

    Now that it is no longer politically expedient Obama admits the truth that the public option is "not the essential element” of reform!
    Let’s see how that flies with the liberal elite in Congress.

    Obama’s total lack of executive experience is obvious, he can’t even contain the fringe elements in his own party. The dems are a total joke, even with a supermajority they are unable to implement their radical agenda!

    August 17, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |



    We've lived without healthcare for years.
    We PAY CASH, or WE DON'T GO.
    We make MONTHLY PAYMENTS to the Hospitals we owe money to.


    Just bury me in a pine box in the back yard.



    August 17, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  15. sonny

    The irony is that everywhere a few elements could derail any reform that benefits the masses. Even fundamentalist are very few in numbers. Look at how they are damaging the society at large for their ideological or theological gains. Recent mob hooliganism we seen in the town halls are hardly a recognizable numbers, but they shout, scare and intimidates the elected representatives and some extend win the PR battle to reform our health care for all reform....Few million sick need your help…Public option is a good alternative to acheive that..

    August 17, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  16. Fair is Fair

    A public option would look just like Medicare.

    In Medicare, the government reimburses physicians at a rate far less than private insurance. To make up the difference, physicians are be forced to charge privately insureds higher fees – forcing insurance companies to raise premiums.

    How can private insurance compete when public plans FORCE physicians to accept lower reimbursements? How can anyone say this is a level playing field? Is not the Medicare system, in fact, a major contributor to the problem?

    Reform Medicare FIRST! But wait... that would mean spineless politicians from BOTH sides of the aisle would have to touch a sacred cow. Forget about it – not going to happen.

    August 17, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  17. Neutralizer

    NO PUBLIC OPTION! We want TORT REFORM, cap medical malpractice lawsuit, INTERSTATE competition for health insurance, elimination of welfare and medicaid for ILLEGAL ALIENS, finish fencing our border with Mexico, DEPORT all ILLEGAL ALIENS. This is the reform WE THE PEOPLE DEMAND.

    August 17, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  18. Ken in Gainesville

    The right wing nuts, insurance companies, big spending lobbyists etc have won again. The Democrats will cave in. No Republican will vote for a real health care reform bill anyway. We will now enter the era of gun-slinging angry mobs controlling the scene. God help the peacemakers.

    August 17, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  19. Shawn - GA

    NO public option.

    YES to reforming insurance in America, the Insurance companies need to have limits and controls, TORT reform needs to happen.

    Having Goverment run the thing is not the way to go. Medicaid and Medicare are a mess just like the USPS...

    August 17, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  20. Welcome to Rome

    If any of you got your news anywhere else,you would see the people of Great Britain have been laughing at us all week over the attacks on their system,while saying Americans really are stupid to fall for the Insurance Company lies.

    August 17, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  21. Mike in MN

    What is certain is a bipartisian bill will not happen with a public options and it can happen if there is no public option. It will depend on Obama which way he wants to take this effort.
    I know the current bills are not single payer and do not have rationing. But I believe the public option can be used as a first step to phase to single payer health care and lead ultimatly to rationaing. Obama is on video a couple of years ago saying he wants single payer but says we can't get rid of employer based health plans over night. He says they will have to be phased out over 10, 15, 20 years. I believe that the public option is the start of a stragey to phase out employer based plans and create a single payer system.
    We can get everyone covered and keep everyone covered and lower costs without a public option.

    August 17, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  22. Neutralizer

    BTW, USA is BANKCRUPT! We as a nation is FLAT BROKE, a monkey is richer than us, it has two dimes in its bottom – we don't! Obambi created $1.85 TRILLION deficit, that is 13.1% of our GDP.

    August 17, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  23. Some republican guy

    We need to get government out of private business all together. End farm subsidies and oil subsidies and transportation subsidies. End ethanol subsidies. End student loan subsidies. End housing subsidies and COBRA. The free market and consumers should be able to handle things on their own. Have a nice day!

    August 17, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  24. katiec

    Those supporting public option, get on the phone.
    White house comment line, 202-456-1111. Will have to keep trying as get the busy signal, but be persistant, you can get through.
    And, call every senator and rep you can. We just cannot let
    politicians ruin health care reform!!

    August 17, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  25. Don in Albuquerque

    If Obama loses this, the rest of his administration is doomed. Hillary now is the time. They will impeach this guy before it is over. MILQUE TOAST! And I voted for him.

    August 17, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
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