September 11th, 2009
12:43 PM ET
9 years ago

Key Democrat predicts final health bill will have 'some form' of public option

WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Democrats met Friday in hope of achieving consensus on one of the biggest sticking points in the health-care battle, the House majority leader predicted final legislation will include a "public option."

The question, Rep. Steny Hoyer told CNN, is what form it will be in. "We'll have to see how that legislative process goes. The public option is a priority for us, it's our objective, and we think that in some form, a public option will be available," he said on CNN's "American Morning."

In recent days, the White House has been speaking with moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the Finance Committee
negotiators, about her idea for a "trigger mechanism" that would bring a public option in the future if health-care legislation fails to meet thresholds for expanding coverage and reducing costs, Snowe told CNN on Wednesday.

Moderate Democrats who are uneasy with a public option, such as Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, have said they could support a trigger mechanism. Such support could help a health-care bill gain the 60 Senate votes that would be necessary to overcome any filibuster attempt by Republicans.

The mechanism might also satisfy some liberal Democrats who previously described a public option as a necessity. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had argued that a bill wouldn't pass the House without a government-run public health insurance option.

But Pelosi and others have softened their language in recent days as the focus has turned more toward a compromise. "This is about a goal. It's not about provisions," Pelosi said Thursday, adding that so long as legislation meets goals of "affordability and accessibility and quality ... then we will go forward with that bill."

Republicans unanimously oppose including a public option as part of
initial steps. Some more conservative-leaning Democrats also express concerns
that it could be too much government involvement and could put private insurers
out of business through unfair competition.

President Barack Obama insists a public-option entity would act as a
non-profit that has to fund itself. He said it would help hold insurance
companies accountable.

"We want to see the public option in a bill passed from the House,"
Hoyer, D-Maryland, told CNN Friday. But he added, "we ought not to just focus
on that."

Asked whether he would ultimately support a bill without such an option,
Hoyer said, "I'm prepared to pass a health-care reform bill that provides
millions access to affordable, quality, health care.

"We think the public option is an important component of that. But
obviously you're going to have to have 218 votes in the house and you're going
to have to have at least a majority in the Senate to do that. We'll have to see
how that legislative process goes."

–CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report

Filed under: Health care • Olympia Snowe
soundoff (125 Responses)
  1. Publius

    In my opinion this is hoax. It is a giant wealth transfer to Big Pharma and Big Med. Why am I not permitted to opt out of paying for this program?
    Further, if anyone has read ivan Illich- Medical Nemesis-they might be so sanguine. Ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

    September 11, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  2. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    Of course it will, and the democrats will be held responsible for it for at least 50 years. Thank god, they are so dumb we can get the control of the presidency and congress back. Don't you just love it when they blame the republicans for everything wrong and they have controlled Congress for four disasterous years.

    September 11, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  3. Jim

    Pres. Obama got it right when he said a public option or pool is needed to provide "choice and competition" for individuals who will need to buy health insurance. I'm an insurance broker and know something about these issues.

    America has at least three programs that are MANDATORY, UNIVERSAL and use a MIXTURE of "public" and "private" options:
    1) K-12 education (mandatory, can be met through public or private schools or home-schooling)
    2) Workers' compensation (mandatory, can be insured through private or state-sponsored insurers or self-insured)
    3) Automobile insurance (mandatory in most states, can be insured through private or state-sponsored assigned risk pools or facilities).

    Health care in the past (like schooling, worker and auto insurance) was left up to the individual or employer, and not for all people. Our nation's businesses, individuals, economy and productivity would be better off if all Americans had health coverage and lived healthier lives – just like we decided long ago we would be better off if all Americans had some education and all employees had workers' comp. coverage.

    I see no reason why mandatory and universal health coverage cannot be accomplished through a mixture of public and private insurance that focuses on cost-effective delivery of health care.

    September 11, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  4. Roger in CA

    Trigger mechanism.... A fine idea and compromise. Stop agonizing over this nonsense AND GET IT DONE!!!!

    September 11, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  5. montag24

    There can be no real health care reform without a public option. C'mon Dems, get a backbone.

    When the GOP is in power, they use their power. Of course, they misuse it, but they use it.

    When the Dems are in power, they do nothing except form a circular firing squad and shoot themselves.

    The Republicans are the party of NO, and the Democrats are the party of NO SPINE.

    September 11, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  6. Lila

    Bob in PA

    What incentive do people have to better themselves when we're all too busy just trying to survive?

    How can we, as a nation, thrive and prosper when our people are so down and out that all they can do is stay on the treadmill of work to make money to pay to be alive?

    I completely agree with "a health economist" in that a public option should be bare minimum, no frills system that is there when our people need it. If our basic needs aren't being met, how can we advance?

    September 11, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  7. worriedmom

    You blame everything on the Republicans, when if you were any aware of what was going on, it is Democrats holding up this health reform. and by the way, are there any Democrats in Congress willing to give up their health care for "The Chosen" one plan.
    I think you are probably one of these idiots that sits around waiting for everything to be given to you free!

    September 11, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. Lila

    "Bob in PA"
    What incentive do people have to better themselves when we're all too busy just trying to survive?

    How can we, as a nation, thrive and prosper when our people are so down and out that all they can do is stay on the treadmill of work to make money to pay to be alive?

    I completely agree with "a health economist" in that a public option should be bare minimum, no frills system that is there when our people need it. If our basic needs aren't being met, how can we advance?

    September 11, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. Obama Victim

    @Vets for Onabama...............I am not real sure about the Lincoln thing

    September 11, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  10. ETM

    Excellent news. Finally, we will have a good plan in place to minimize cost and maximize coverage.

    With passage of this plan–and it will pass now–the Democrats will do well in 2010 and perhaps even gain in the Senate. Independents want results and they will have them, and with any luck they will help drive the Republican party of today into a well-deserved extinction in the next decade or so.

    September 11, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  11. leanderjim

    and you know that ain't happenin.........We the People of VA.......afraid your going to wake up day after election day in 2010 and see an even more shrinking Republican Party..............until all it represents are a few die hard southern states.

    September 11, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  12. Chenna Benna

    I hope that all who are opposed the public option will write and tell their Senators and representatives in Congress to get rid of their government run health care and get private insurance.

    September 11, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  13. Rob

    As much as I think a public option should be there from day 1, a trigger is still better than nothing at all and as long as there is a relatively short timeframe for the insurance industry to lower costs and regulate themselves then I'm fine with that. If its going to take 10 years for a trigger to kick in, then that would be ridiculous.

    Dems need to unite and realize that Republicans are never going to support health care reform. They opposed Social Security. They opposed Medicare. They oppose anything that can actually do some common good.

    And for the icing on the cake...Joe "You Lie" Wilson apparently gets government healthcare from TRICARE for himself and his family for having served in the military.

    As usual, the Republicans want you to do what they say not what they do.

    September 11, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  14. JDM

    Having options is the Amreican way. I like steak, Fords, movies, and anything else that I can afford. Why can't I have the option to buy my Health Insurance from the Govermant if I want too?
    It seems so UNAMERICAN not to have a OPTION!

    September 11, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  15. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Having studied President Barack Obama's presentation from the onset of the serious campaign for this health care plan, I get the very serious impression that the POTUS is going to get very close to what he wanted from the beginning on this, and he's done it by not basically tipping his hand at all.

    In other words, he was selling a used car and would be satisified to get $2,000 for it, advertised it at $2,500 and ended-up accepting $2,200 or more than he really wanted in the first place while letting others believe they got more of what they wanted. He is a very savvy and measured man with very smart people around him, and I don't believe he would have left a stone unturned on this, even going so far as asking the GOP to get on board with this, because he's aware, like most of us, that they have no plan and have no intetnion of creating on, either! But, if they don't get on board, they will be leaving themselves wide open for criticism from the American people.

    Next step is to watch how Sarah Palin reacts to a piece of legislation she'll never read to see what" bogey men" she can find/create this time and then watch the White House hang her from her own petard in the process for all to see. Or, they'll let her do it for them – she's proved adroit at it, i.e. the "death panels," etc.

    And something for the Swifties on the Right to contemplate – the most successful social programs in history were all put in place by the Democrats and then tinkered to death by the Right. Don't mess this one up or you'll make the mess Bush made look pale by comparison! On second thought, go ahead.........

    September 11, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  16. Tony

    I want a public option. It will be the only way to give the insurance companies competition. Why should we trust them to cut cost. They haven't done it thus far. Insurance companies are in the game to make money.

    September 11, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  17. stop blameing the republicans?

    we have not yet begun to blame the republicans

    we are in misery and continue to try to pull ourselves out of the misery inflicted on us by the republicans

    there is not doubt about the republicans being responsible for this, and try as you might to pass it on to Obama, he is doing a fine job cleaning up their mess, but it takes time


    and I hope their party goes down in flames and up come the independants

    September 11, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  18. rr

    Way to alienate the blue dogs there, liberals!

    September 11, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  19. Josh in TN

    GO GO OBAMA and the PUBLIC OPTION. How foolish for someone to say an option is a take over. It's an option for goodness sake. How stupid can you be. Option means choice not take over.

    September 11, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  20. Sure

    I own a business that provides health insurance for the employees. If the government starts fining me on the healthcare that I provide, I will surely drop the that healthcare and the employees can go on the government teat.

    September 11, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  21. Mississippi Mike

    You can put a socialist in a democracy but you can't take the socialism out of their legislation.

    September 11, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  22. Josh in TN

    It cracks me up to read how conservatives truly believe that only people on welfare of some kind are the people who desire a public option. Real working people need this the most. If it were not for conservatives abusing the system so much it would not be in the shape it is in. To He– with them.

    September 11, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  23. texan

    A trigger is OK only as a last resort and ONLY if it contains ABSOLUTE benchmarks that both timely reduce costs to the insured, increase quality of care and availability. Absolutely not to be streached out over years. If those benchmarks are not met, the private option should immediately be enforced WITH NO APPEALS. ----- Mark my words, the health care industry will NOT reduce costs and outrageous profits without a gun to their heads.

    September 11, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  24. maximus

    I don't know for others, but I am sick and tired to hear about politics everywhere at all times. I buy a newpaper, politics; i turn on my radio, politics; I turn on my TV, politics; I turn on my computer, still po-freaking-litics. Politics is not the essential topic of life. Politicians are the fake stars of the world.They are selfish, liars, and hypocrite. They print the money and keep them for themselves. They make laws and violate them; they make promises and break them; they say one thing and mean another; they brainwash people to exploit them. Give the people a chance to seek and find their daily bread to fight hunger

    September 11, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  25. Tim in Texas

    Many of the comments here reflect a general misunderstanding of what a "public option" is. A public option is not an option that would be 'free' like a public high school. Individuals would pay for it just as they do for other insurance bought by individuals - and it would be a choice - as an individual, you could purchase your health insurance from either a private insurer if you like their plan better or select the public option. What I think these people are actually objecting to is that some low-income people would be subsidized - that is they would basically have to buy health insurance, but if they could not afford to do so, would receive some help with payments. We actually already subsidize those w/o insurance - and we do so in a way that is really pricey. People without insurance go to the emergency rooms where there is a requirement that they be treated. Emergency room care is extremely expensive & for most things unnecessary. But nobody -neither republicans nor democrats will end this practice for good reason - say you get hit by a car - do you want the ambulance driver to check to see if you have insurance before they put you in the bus? The second way that health insurance is subsidized is that anybody who is single pays for the spouses of those who are on employer's plans. For instance, if you are single and work for a company, that company pays for your insurance - say it's $400 a month. The person who is married gets the $400 a month for their insurance PLUS sometimes a full $400 a month for their spouse & sometimes something like 1/2 the amount & then the employee has to cover the other half. In other words - the spouse gets a benefit even though he or she doesn't do anything to get it.

    September 11, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
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