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. andy

    cowards. co-ops have been proven to not work well. so you're going let republicans and a few bad democrats significantly weaken the bill? why did you include reconciliation as an option if you're willing to use it to craft the best legislation possible? history will judge you based on the quality of the bill, not the process by which it passed.

    August 16, 2009 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  2. Keith in Austin

    The American People are being heard! Obama's love affair with a single-party payment system is apparently wavering.
    Beware however of his radical nature and socialistic desire for Big Government. His current rhetoric is highly suspect. Stand strong America! NO GOVERNMENT stranglehold on healthcare and the subsequent invasion of our lives!

    August 16, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  3. KIC

    Why didn't you press those republican senators on the *out and out lie* in that email?????? You let them just completely ignore that *they lied*. What kind of journalism is that??? And when will people use their heads, single payer was *never part of the bills*. I have never been so frustrated in my whole life as right now listening to the republicans completely obfuscate and *lie* over such an important issue. They say they don't want the status quo but that is exactly what they DO want.

    August 16, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  4. Lynne

    The media parses words and tries to think they know what is going on in the President's head. They fail to appreciate they do NOT have a seat at the table, their job is NOT in a free society to shape opinion but to be an objective, fact based arm of democracy.

    For example, once again John King thinks you can have a balanced debate with three republicans and one Democrat.

    The Sunday shows are so far bbehind the curve that they don't even know that there is now a 40 day multireligious initiative in support of health reform. Ehat are the so called Christian right going to do with that??

    August 16, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  5. vic nashville , Tn

    If you watch Sunday shows one thing is clear republicans they don’t care us

    My question for republicans how we can fix the broken health care?

    There is no Obama health care so suggest something to fix the health care

    If you all don’t want to involve because of election shame on you all

    Stop criticizing do some thing or resign

    August 16, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  6. fiscalfighter

    A potential problem with co-ops is that they may attract too many sick patients rejected by the for-profit insurance industry. Those against true reform will then rail against the co-ops as inefficient due to their higher operating costs from treating these sick patients. If co-ops are gonna work, then legislation must level the playing field for all insurance providers by mandating they enroll any applicant. Then you've got to keep the for-profit folks from disenrolling people once they get sick.
    Instead of a "Public Option", perhaps a "Non-profit Option" would be more accepted.

    August 16, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  7. Maria - Proud Democrat

    Everyone says that the new plan is going to provide health care for the poor.

    However, what everyone fails to mention is that this health care is not going to be will have to pay.....and if you don't sign up to get insurance you will be charged a fee.

    So the poor person that was struggling to pay their rent and put food on the table is now going to have to have to give one of these up in order to pay for their insurance.

    Why are is the news media not talking about the REAL FACTS and the REAL IMPACT on POOR AMERICANS?

    Why are we in such a rush to pass this plan.

    We should try the new health plan out on one or two states out the kinks and then move to make it a National Plan.

    August 16, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  8. Tom

    Hold on a second here. Has anybody seen specifics of anything???? How about a list of what the plan contains. I have not heard ONE specific thing from the President about this health care plan. He keeps talking about WHAT the plan ought to contain, but wait, its already been written. I think the politicians in this country are about as out of touch with real life as the Iranian Clerics are, and Obama is trying a "Hugo Chavez" grasp at power. It is obvious by this administrations actions, they feel Congress and the people of this country are in their way. This is a country that is about freedom and not about what the government tells us what to do. We need to take it back, and remind the administration about the Tenth Ammendment of the Constitution that limits the scope of federal government.

    August 16, 2009 10:07 am at 10:07 am |

    I'm sick and tired of watching these folks squabble over who lied more. It's VERY apparent to me that the Repubs are building a case for both outcomes. If it fails they will claim victory....if it passes they will claim they crafted it.....all because of one TINY clause that has little relevance.

    August 16, 2009 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  10. Steve-Illinois

    These people are more concerned with "making history" by passing ANY health care bill, than they are with passing a GOOD health care bill. Whatever happened to the campaign statement "If you loose your health care, you will have the option to enroll in the same plan as federal government employees"? Medicare is fraught with cost overruns and fraud. If all this money can be saved by "reform," then reform Medicare first, prove the money can be saved, then consider a national health care system that includes all government employees, including our elected officials. Any Senator or Representative that is not willing to include themselves and their families in any bill, should vote NO! If they are told to come up with a bill that they will be required to participate in, then, and only then, will you see a GOOD bill.

    August 16, 2009 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  11. 26 y/o Hispanic just recenlty gained employment and Health Ins coverage again.

    I don't understand why people want government to run healthcare. This will turn jobs over to the public sector and lose private sector jobs therefore losing a significant portion of the tax base AND adding more red tape and more regulation to an already over regulated industry. Next thing you know, they will be telling you what kind of homeowner's insurance you can have, how much life insurance must be required, what tv channels I can watch, what type of civic org I can join, what kind of investments I can put my funds into..... where will this type of thought process end? When did folks turn into such ninnies/ impecunious/ destitute? Hard work, being strong headed and doing/ giving to charity on one's own accord without mandates should be the norm, not the other way around.

    August 16, 2009 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  12. CRob

    It amazes me that this president keeps bringing up issues with the insures about pre-existing and people not being offered coverage. The AHIP, which is the talking piece of the insurance companies, has come out and said that as part of reform they will eliminate pre-existing and make guarantee issue for everyone. Why must he spin this that they arent working with him when they have already made these concessions. Just more spin, maybe the president should try the Tour de France.

    August 16, 2009 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  13. T'SAH from Virginia

    Competition is GOOD to bring any cost down... Just like COMCAST and VERIZON – For the longest we had to depend on COMCAST alone to get cable TV and their prices went UP UP UP and we had no choice but to pay it.... NOW, since Verizon has become available in our neighborhood and offered LOW LOW LOW prices – COMCAST, who lost customers as a result, had no choice but to lower the price.

    Now, the competition is ON – I have a choice to go BACK and FORTH with each company until I am satisfied with my SERVICE and PRICE!!!

    Same as in HEALTH CARE – COMPETITION will lower HEALTH CARE COST and the insured will have a CHOICE – back and forth until it's right for ME!!!!

    August 16, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  14. Fed Up

    Seems to me that there is already competition out there. There is also price-fixing, just like with gas companies. Oh, that doesn't matter though. The health care isn't run by the government. As soon as that happens, the price is supposed to fall through the floor. Whatever!

    August 16, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  15. Richard

    The GREAT MIDDLE AMERICA listens to their Republican fear mongers and screws itself AGAIN!!!!!!! I guess it's fine to spend 10 BILLION a month on an unjustified war and kill a quarter of a million people FOR NOTHING, but DON'T TOUCH OUR PRECIOUS -37th RANKED–HEALTH CARE SYSTEM!!!!!!
    Changing the INSURANCE BILLING SYSTEM changes NOTHING!!!!!!

    August 16, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  16. Mark Ferbet, Kansas City, MO

    a strong compromise bill is what we need. As much as I truly believe a public option that competes with the big insurance companies is needed, it needs to come as a bipartisian bill. If our elected officials can write a solid bill that reforms healthcare, and can find a moderate or centrist solution, so be it. BUT, the GOP needs to make a stronger effort to work WITH Democrats, instead of playing politics with such an important issue. The party of NO is continuing to use the Fear tactic to scare Americans about change that is needed. And Americans need to stop believing the political BS that is coming from the radical right and left of our political parties...

    August 16, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  17. Ricky

    VICTORY!! No public option!! This is a huge defeat for Barry and the Dems to not have the public option. I’m grinning ear to ear!!

    August 16, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  18. nickhart

    Dear Mr. Obama, health care reform does NOT = health insurance reform

    August 16, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  19. lockeanddemosthenes

    This isn't an issue of red or blue. America's healthcare system is broken and fragmented, leaving millions uninsured or subject to the wills of large private companies. Steve – the plan may not be a good one, but something needs to get passed to prevent things from getting worse. In order to make things better, you have to stop them from worsening first. And Tom – that's a bold attack on the president. Have you forgotten the thousands of soldiers lives we've lost over a lie from Bush's tenure? Republicans should step up and provide an alternate plan or stop promoting false rumors. American healthcare needs a fix, not another failure.

    August 16, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  20. thanks but no thanks

    History will judge this president as one of the better ones our country has had. l fully support his agenda. Even if he does not go through with his plan, he understand the real word democracy. Bring all sides of the subject to the table, and find a solution. He is not a fake one, such as our previous one pretending to be a tough guy, when he was just a draft doger.

    August 16, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  21. obama is waterboy to neo-cons

    there will be steep competition for the WH from the genuine LEFT next time. and Obama isn't included.

    August 16, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  22. Mark Ferbet, Kansas City, MO

    someone stated Obama is grasping for power. And comparing him to Chavez.... if that is so, he would have written the bill, and shoved it down the collective throats of congress. That is not so. He is allowing congress to write the bill, and he has strong opinions of what needs to be in it. Its Congress that needs to get to work.... The President doesn't write legislation... he can put pressure on Congress to get it done, but the ball is in their court, as is the blame if they fail.

    August 16, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  23. JohnBoy

    Why are we not talking about tort reform? Why are the lawyers allowed to continue bringing down health care? Why are we not talking about doctors charging so much for services to pay for the lawyers? Why are we not talking about co-pay for Medicaid? Why are we not talking about removing non-residents from free medical treatment, give them services and then send them back to their country. Why are we not talking about removing the goverment from health care completely?

    Its time for Americans to take back our Health Care and our Goverment. Nothing is free, someone is paying.

    Yes, we have the best Health care in the world, lets keep it that way. Get the Goverment out of Health care.

    August 16, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  24. Shannon - Chapel Hill, NC

    Calm down Richard. Your guy has himself a little war now too huh?

    August 16, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  25. kiki

    This is the first article in my 53 years that I have seen a United States President (current or ex) referred to as Mister and not his elected title.
    What's that about?

    August 16, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
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