August 16th, 2009
02:17 PM ET
13 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. Shingo

    1. John King and his wife Dana Bash are both GOPers so if you were looking for unbiased information it is not going to happen.
    2. I DO have issues with co-op vs public option:

    A) WHO will be the elected board of directors or management company to run this? Because generally the first thing that happens with a board/managment is they raise your “dues/fees.” B) How will small co-ops compete with big insurance companies in political and purchasing power? C) Insurance companies will not welcome ANY competition so why would they support this? Insurance companies are in business to “make money” they are not in business because they actually care about your health.

    August 16, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  2. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    If we can't get single payer, we MUST have a "Public" option... If there is ever going to be any chance of getting health care costs under control, AND making sure that high "risk" (COST) patients can get affordable coverage.
    FOR PROFIT "Insurance"/HMOs must not be our only choices... If we only keep going with what we already have, we will only get what we have already gotten...
    Now if you have not had any problems, and you can afford your coverage, you probably think everything is fine and "why mess with success?"
    Well, for much of the rest of the country, costs are out of control and getting worse, assuming you can get coverage, at any price.

    Is the American ideal really "I have mine – you're on your own?" Is that as a result of capitalism? Is that the best we can do?

    August 16, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    No Public Option = No Change!

    Nothing is going to change until elected officials and their families have no health insurance for their families. They just don't get it.

    August 16, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  4. Chipster

    "Socialism will always be rejected in America, that's why Obama will lose in 2012..."

    Wrong. If Obama loses in 2012, it will be because he and the Democratic majority fail to provide a public option for at least basic health care for people who cannot afford it. The Blue Dog Democrats will not only cost the President a second term but they will surely lose the slight majority that they achieved when they promised to end the unsustainable costs of health care for the uninsured. If they fail to deliver, voters will ask themselves why does it matter who wins? Why should I go door-to-door, deliver newsletters, introduce candidates, and work so hard to get out the vote for fools who play the same games as the last round of fools we had?

    Deliver or pack your bags.

    August 16, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  5. welches, oregon

    The bill won't kill old Uncle Phil, but will help Phil make a Will – not take a pill. Come on people – Get Real !

    August 16, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  6. J.C. - Independent & Insured

    Without the public plan, our economy will go down further and more people will lose their coverage. Co-ops are no substitute for the public plan. Co-op for health care has been tried and failed. It is a political ploy designed to prolong private health insurers' existence and continue their profit-making at our expenses.

    August 16, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  7. Bethie

    Competition is what we need. Have you ever seen a poor insurance agent? Enough said.

    August 16, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  8. Zion

    I am so sick of Republicans being allowed to run things even when they and their idiots are a MINORITY.

    August 16, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
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