September 4th, 2009
05:53 PM ET
5 years ago

House liberals tell Obama public option is 'essential'

Some of the most liberal members of the House say they won't vote for a bill without a government-run insurance option.
Some of the most liberal members of the House say they won't vote for a bill without a government-run insurance option.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – As Obama prepares to go before Congress and lay out more details about his stance on health reform, he held a conference call Friday with some of the most liberal members of the House, who say they won't vote for a bill without a government-run insurance option.

Two congresswomen on the call, which took place Friday afternoon, tell CNN that the president probed them about how entrenched they are, even asking them to define what they mean when they call for a "robust" public option.

"I think he would like to convince us that there is something short of that could lead to a public option that would satisfy us, and guess what? It doesn't," Rep. Lynne Woolsey, D-California, told CNN in a telephone interview after the conference call.

Woolsey, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, insisted that the president did not explicitly warn them that he may have to give up a so-called public option in order to pass a bill through the more moderate Senate, but it seemed he was laying the groundwork.


"He has to decide where that line has to be drawn and he knows we have to decide where the line can be drawn," said Woolsey.

The conference call included leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Another Democratic source familiar with the call said the president did made clear it will be hard to pass a public option out of Congress because of deep opposition from moderates, and talked about what's most important to him - market reforms that force more competition, lower costs for health care, and expanded coverage for the uninsured.

But both Woolsey and Rep Barbara Lee, D-California, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told CNN that they told the president point blank that they do not believe a health care proposal without a government-run option is real reform.

"All of our caucuses are very unified about a robust public option, and that is essential in healthcare reform efforts," Lee told CNN in a separate phone interview after the conference call.

"Because the cost to those who have insurance, which is 85 percent of the public - they want to make sure that they keep their coverage that they have choice but that their premiums come down. And we communicated this very clearly to the president. The only way that that can happen for those are already insured is to have a robust public option, " she said.

Lee said she answered the president's question about what a robust option means by saying it should be crafted along the lines of Medicare for senior citizens.

Woolsey and Lee said the president invited them to the White House to continue the discussion on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, before his speech to Congress.


Filed under: Health care
soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. eolufemi

    I'm glad the liberals are standing up to the extreme right. There is absolutely no reason people referring to the president as Hitler or a socialist should even be included in the conversation. I for one do not like the idea of being forced to purchase insurance from a private provider, when those very insurance companies have been screwing the American people for years. It seems like the insurance companies are being rewarded for lying to the people and further brainwashing the ignorant. What people really wanted was a single payer system, but the moderates and those interested in bipartisanship conceded way TOO early that this was not an option. As a result the compromise in the form of a public option got labeled a liberal idea, when in fact that was THE compromise. Don't compromise anymore than you have already compromised. If the republicans and their democrat apologist want to drive the economy off the cliff, so be it. The vast majority of the rest of us are global citizens quite capable of surviving anywhere if this America thing goes bust.

    September 4, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  2. David

    For heaven's sake, what is so morally righteous about the word public?

    And how does capitalism devour people?

    I resent the whole wealth distribution story. That assumes a that the total amount of wealth in the world is zero-sum, when in fact capitalism allows new wealth to be created.

    And I don't think capitalism or economics are amoral at all. They are based on the moral right of all people to their own lives and property.

    September 4, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  3. NC Dem

    If he backs away from this I will be outraged. I am still a supporter, but I am angered by his waffling on Health care, Guantanamo, torture and additional troops to the middle east. Those were very specific issues where I hoped we had a politician that would make good. I am disappointed Mr. President.

    September 4, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  4. valwayne

    9.7% UNEMPLOYMENT, $9 Trillion in Debt, 8 Months in Office. All Obama and the Democrats in Congress can talk about is cramming Obamacare, at the cost of trillions and trillions more, down the throats of the American people that they call UnAmerican and Evil Mongers! They truly believe they are the ruling class, and have utter contempt for the working people of America!

    September 4, 2009 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  5. lil

    We sure need something better than what we have and what the republican are trying to sell us.
    What we should do is sue the republican for every lie they have told
    about healthcare. These lies they are telling has to be a crime.

    September 4, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  6. Dave

    It seems to me that all of the liberal nut jobs in this country would like to see not only the redistribution of wealth but also the redistribution of health care at the expense of the senior citizens by the way. Nice. This country can't afford to do both without making this country a banana republic in twenty years or less.

    September 4, 2009 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  7. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    Why doesn't someone tell these socialists that if they really wanted to bring down the cost of healthcare, then why don't the press for TORT REFORM first? If medical professionals did not have to spend a fortune on insurance to protect agains frivulous lawsuits, they would not pass the cost on to us.

    To answer my own question, first of all the democrats DON'T CARE about lowering cost. All they care about is CONTROL. Second of all, the ambulance-chasing trial lawyers (the ones who profit the most from frivuous lawsuits) are one of the democrats most generous and reliable contributors.

    September 4, 2009 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  8. Warren, GA

    Amid the firestorm about the "public option", I have yet to hear a decent defense of the "corporate option", which we've been under the onus of for decades. Billions of dollars of "health care" money each year never make it to doctors or hospitals or health care providers of any kind. It winds up in the pockets of the bookies.
    Remember Eddie Murphy in "Trading Places" when he figured out how the commodities scheme worked? Every month, you place a bet with your insurance company on your health. If you stay well, you lose, and they get to keep your money. If you get sick or hurt, you win.
    Sometimes.
    There's always a catch. They don't always pay out.
    When someone can explain to me how a non-profit single-payer program that is affordable and open to all Americans, regardless of pre-existing conditions, with no threat of being cut off if you actually get sick, is better than dealing with the gaming industry, I'd be happy to listen.
    Until then, I'm still waiting for the defense of the "Vegas option".

    September 4, 2009 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  9. manuel hernandez

    Obama, Stand up to the righties, be not afraid of the guns. Change we can believe, dump Obama and lets try again.

    September 4, 2009 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  10. Warren, GA

    Amid the firestorm about the "public option", I have yet to hear a decent defense of the "corporate option", which we've been under the onus of for decades. Billions of dollars of "health care" money each year never make it to doctors or hospitals or health care providers of any kind. It winds up in the pockets of the bookies.
    Remember Eddie Murphy in "Trading Places" when he figured out how the commodities scheme worked? Every month, you place a bet with your insurance company on your health. If you stay well, you lose, and they get to keep your money. If you get sick or hurt, you win.
    Sometimes.
    There's always a catch. They don't always pay out.
    When someone can explain to me how a non-profit single-payer program that is affordable and open to all Americans, regardless of pre-existing conditions, with no threat of being cut off if you actually get sick, is worse than dealing with the gaming industry, I'd be happy to listen.
    Until then, I'm still waiting for the defense of the "Vegas option".

    September 4, 2009 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  11. Richie

    SINGLE PAYER NOW. This is the only way to do it. Lower Medicare eligibility age each year. Employers whose employees age-in to Medicare are taxed on their savings. Come on, people, we need this!

    September 4, 2009 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  12. J.C. - Independent & Insured

    If everyone must get their idea implemented, why not fill the exchange with for-profit private insurers, non-profit co-ops, and a Medicare-like Public Option? So everyone gets to choose which program they want to support. We have got 300 million people so we should have large enough insured pools to experiment with.

    Another option is to lower the Medicare minimum age of 65 by 10 per year. In 4 years, all will be covered as the children and college kids up to 25 are now covered through parents. The initial shock to change will be minimized. At the end, we will save health care costs for much better outcomes.

    A public plan should not be free. No matter how much or little one makes, you must contribute a percentage of your income with no limit to participate in it. This fiscal conservative will drop my employer's insurance to support it.

    The Public Plan will cover the middle class, who is neither rich nor poor. Taking the Public Option from the middle class is damaging to our democracy. Mr. President, please think twice before you sign any bill!

    September 4, 2009 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  13. manuel hernandez

    )bama,Strong leadership is needed and the people will follow. Good Luck.

    September 4, 2009 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  14. john

    They better!

    September 4, 2009 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  15. No Hillary = No Obama

    When all is said and done this is going to be called Obama's Folly.

    September 4, 2009 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  16. PL

    Health care reform is needed. But can't we start from looking at what did not work and change them, and keep what worked?

    Obvious areas are tort reform, doing away with pre-existing conditions, removing state restrictions, allowing employees to carry their policy of choice to another job, giving financial assistance to unemployed to pay for medical insurance premiums, .....

    The Democrat-dominated congress can surely re-write these laws if they care about helping the poor and needy without getting into a radically different system that will be fully under government control.
    It should give us pause to worry about the power the government will have over our lives, our decisions.

    I believe President Obama means well. But his credibility is tested. He is surrounded by advisors whose history of socialistic agenda have been published, Van Jones, Mark Lloyd who praised Chavez in Venezuela, , or by old Washington hands and their lobbyists company-Axelrod. Just google these names.

    How could we not think of "socialistic agenda" by this president if you listen to the recording of these men that the president bestows power to?

    September 4, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  17. Obummer - One and Done

    Here's a good compromise: All those who voted for Obama will be forced to go under the government-run system. All who voted for McCain will be free to choose what's best for them and their families. Obama voters will have rationed health care and death panels. McCain voters will get the best care in the world. Isn't that fair?

    September 4, 2009 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  18. elise Turner

    I'm a liberal and proud to be one. President Obama, the public option is essential. Stand strong and pass the health care bill that you want for the American people. The American people voted you in office and believed in you. You can't become weak and give the Republicans the upper hand. These racists, Republicans and Blue Dogs want you to fall on your face. Please don't give them the satisfaction. They want to prove that you are indecisive and not capable of running this country. Not only that, their main agenda is to prove that a Black man is not smart enough to be President of the United States. When you pass this Bill with the public option, and it works, you will know deep in your heart that you fought the good fight for the little person and won for the little person. I know that you are a religious man and I'm asking you to pray to God for guidance on this issue; and you know what, his answer to you will be "my son you tried diligently to work with the Republicans and they turned on you; stand for right and I'll make everything all right." He will carry you, Mr. President. I know he will and he will provide you with the armor needed to shield you from the serpent's tongue. Don't concern yourself about the polls; they will reach above 65 again. Just fight for us, please.

    September 4, 2009 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  19. Andrew

    How amazing that people who consider themselves thoughtful are able to be fooled by the same tired rhetoric. Those whose loud objections that a public option is somehow socialist or communist are dredging up the same sort of unreasonable fervor that gave us the period where demagogues like Joseph McCarthy were able to ruin the lives of good Americans for no reason at all with the shameful permission of so many. Shame on you.

    September 4, 2009 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  20. susan from bethesda, md.

    The idea of buying insurance across state lines is another Obama
    fantasy that is an insult to the intelligence of all Americans. The only reason insurance is cheaper in Kansas than it is in NY is because it costs a whole lot less to run a medical practice in Kansas, so doctors charge less. When your rent is 5 times as much in NY, and the wages you have to pay are 3 times as much, does it make sense to believe that Kansas premiums will suddenly be the same for New Yorkers? Of course not.

    September 4, 2009 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  21. Ken Williams

    I love it the hateful and angry left begins to turn on itself. People who told me this man was the messiah are now saying he has no balls. Oh and the argument that people who question the potential effectiveness of this bill are prejudice is a very convincing argument that really makes me want to support the presidents vision of health care. Most Americans want health care for everyone, but why can't we explore all the options and have a civilized discussion. Any bill that's passed will not go into effect until 2013 so let's not rush; let's get it right.

    September 5, 2009 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  22. jetty

    PUBLIC INSURNACE PLAN OPTION and all else is just an effort to derail the presidency of Obama by a failing GOP

    September 5, 2009 02:21 am at 2:21 am |
  23. jules sand-perkins

    Liberals say that the public option is "essential?"
    Liberals are not essential.

    Let's not phase in any more Marxism.

    September 5, 2009 03:50 am at 3:50 am |
  24. jules sand-perkins

    We have nothing to fear: just wash your hands.
    Obama Out in 2012!
    Restore the balance in Congress ASAP!

    We made a mistake last year. Good: one learns from mistakes.
    Now let's use the eraser and start over. We still have America, and we can restore it by curing dependency on handouts the same way drug addiction is cured: remove the drug, and get rid of the drug dealer.

    September 5, 2009 04:41 am at 4:41 am |
  25. Funny girl

    I have been behind this administration from the begining. I have had faith that they would choose the right option. I worked my tail off last summer with 4 children in tow to get Obama elected. Let me make this clear. America needs a public option. Not a trigger system. If this administration drafts a bill without it just to get on snowe on board and leave 16 dems out and thinks oh well. No public option- no re- election. You have lost me. Period!

    September 5, 2009 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
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