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. Water carriers starting to run

    single payer, public option

    or this whole thing is a joke.

    The for profit insurance industry does not care if it kills you, and can do it legally.

    dont cave Mr. President, We the people, are with you.

    August 16, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  2. Dr. John

    As both a provider and patient I can't say just how disappointed I am to see the President abandon this position. The arguements against it are completely erroneous and easily disputed.

    Think you won't have the freedom to openly choose whatever prodecure or medicine you want and that the decision between you and your doctor will be taken away? I have news for you, you don't have the freedom with private insurers nor is the decision between you and your doctor, there are "gatekeepers" at the insurance companies to make sure you don't run up the bills. They do this by blocking your access to treatments.

    Think the government can't run anything well? I think the United States Armed forces may have something to say about that.

    Think it Socialism? Take a basic Political Science class. It's not Socialism unless the doctors work for the government and not independently.

    Think it'll cost you money in taxes? If you had to buy your own insurance vs. pay higher taxes for government run insurance, you'd lose money in this race. Decent private insurance for a family cannot be gotten for under 12,000 per year and that's for pretty bad insurance. It would also be very good for small businesses who wouldn't have to pay exhorbitant prices to cover their employees.

    I have an alternative though. If they're not going to offer a public option, I suggest that the Senators and Congress offer us the same insurance they get for the same price they pay for it. Since they're elected officials and we're footing the bill for THEIR healthcare I think it's only fair.

    August 16, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  3. Nuts

    Obama invokes grandmom into the health debate. The last time I remember Obama threw grandmother under the bus.

    Obama: She is a typical white person

    August 16, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  4. Pat Simonson

    I just wnt to ask all the people who are for Obama's plan, why do you trust the government so much? Think about it, you may trust this abministration but will you trust the next one or do you think Obama is going to be president for life? Think about human nature for a minute. People will flock to something if they think it is free. Also if taxpayers are paying for something, many of them will feel they can butt their noses in other peoples business and in one way or another will affect what gets covered ,etc. Give your head a shake, no matter how attractive free or low cost is, consider the unintended consequences and where it all might lead.

    August 16, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  5. Jean

    No more "public option plan"; you can put a fork in this healthcare reform plan. Big loss for Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress. In the next few months watch them [the Democrats] put some lipstick on that pig they will call reform. I am relieved that such a badly conceived [they were rushed by Madam Pelosi] plan will not see the day of light. I hope that true reform, which would address what is actually wrong with healthcare in this land will now be discussed and fixed, but that is hoping for a lot coming from this [still] do nothing Congress. Mr. Obama promised the moon and well, his big rocket may not make it out of the launching pad. Now we must endure all the whining and crying from the liberals, oh well a small price to pay at least.

    August 16, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  6. alvino

    I find it hard to believe that the Christian religious right would embrace the anti health reform stance of millionaire Texan lobbyist Dick Armey and turn their back on humanity.

    August 16, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  7. Truly Informed Florida

    I work as a volunteer at a local hospital. Once I was given a stack of insurance bills about 8 inches high. I was told to pick out all the bills that were over $10,000. They had to be sent to the various companies by Special Delivery, signed receipt. Otherwise the insurance companies would insist that they had NEVER received the biils and therefore DID NOT HAVE TO PA Y! Who says we don't need reform?

    August 16, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  8. Jeff

    The reason competition "has not worked" in health care (as the Dems are always saying) is because there IS NO COMPETITION in health care right now. There hasn't been for a long time.

    Having the company you work for dictate to you what insurance plan you have is not competition.

    The only way to get true competition is to scrap the nonsensical system of employer-based coverage and move toward individual-based coverage instead.

    August 16, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  9. MJ

    Maybe Obama is finally listening to America. Enough Government spending and control. People have not just lost jobs ... a job is doing a household chore or bagging groceries when you are in school. Good, hard-working men and women have lost careers, the dreams of advancement, the ability to support family and community. To quote Thomas Jefferson, "The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not".

    August 16, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. Rod

    Do not drop the public health care option. The citizens of the U.S. fully support the option. Do not cave in to the Republicans. Competition is necessary to keep the health insurance industry competitive and honest.

    August 16, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  11. matt

    The public option is a government take over of health care, and the public knows this, that is why the vast majority of america is so upset. That is also why obama tried to rush it through before the august recess, before the public had any chance of reading what is currently in HR 3200. We voted for this guy and then he tries to pull a fast one on us. That is not the guy I thought I was voting for. We should reform what we currently have, not try to run health insurance companies out of business because obama doesn't like them. He does not speak for all of amercia, apparently he does not speak for very many americans, which is obivous when poll numbers show the vast majority does not support his personal opinions and views on this matter. The average income for the 46 million uninsured is $75,000.00 I have never made that much money in one year in my life, and I still buy health insurance for my family because I love them, I would pay triple what I currently pay because I love them . If you make that much money and you don't buy health insurance for you and your family then that is your choice, but you did not buy it because you did not have enough money. Some people would rather buy an SUV with big rims or a house that they cannot afford than buy health insurance for their family. But again that is their choice, that is what is beautiful about america, WE HAVE THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE!

    August 16, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  12. noname

    Mr. President,
    You are the President - I voted you because I agreed with you on health care and the majority of your issues. If you go back on your word, where is the change? You have the majority in Congress, pass the bill.

    August 16, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  13. Jennifer

    Well, you know CNN is in the pockets of the drug manufacturers and health insurance co.s .... Just count how many commercials for these companies CNN runs on a daily basis. How could anyone expect fair coverage from CNN with that kind of deep throat relationship with the anti-health care crowd????

    There is no Free Press in America. They've bought the press.

    August 16, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  14. hjhaney

    Typo correction: It's too bad that you think that your health-care is worth less than your reading material.

    August 16, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  15. yuri

    If the GOP believes Sebelius, the healthcare reform will probably on track.

    August 16, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  16. NeoCon from Hell

    "Sebilius"? This is the Cow, that gave money and support to Tiller, or Tiller the baby Killer, gave her money? Either way, another Left Wing appointee, by that scumbag OBAMA.

    August 16, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  17. Jason

    Soon things everywhere will be just like Mr. Obama's home town of Nyongoma Kogelo village!

    August 16, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  18. Get Real

    Now if we take the dumb idea of a public option off the table, we can work on a real solution. Gee the Midterm elections must be just around the corner. I bet all the members will claim to have good ideas.

    August 16, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  19. g ontario

    why should health care be on the backs of employers its the people of the united states not the people of the corporations

    August 16, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  20. Sandra, Atlanta

    It really amazes me that the lack of facts don't really seem to matter to people.
    FACT: Health insurance companies ration your care now! It's not doctors making the decisions.
    FACT: I think most people are for tort reform; HOWEVER, doctors have shown us that they don't police their own. What about the really bad doctors that do damage and it's covered up by their own. They are just as bad as lawyers. At least with lawyers you have some recourse. Doctors, do a much better job of getting rid of the bad apples yourselves and we don't need the capability to sue. Until then, suck up the high premiums. The ordinary person needs a way to protect themselves from bad doctors.
    FACT: Insurance premiums keep going up and care does get rationed or insurance dropped. There are indeed more bankruptcies due to medical conditions than just poor decisions.
    FACT: Why are we giving private insurers $177M per year to subsidize medical care for retires. Is that not 'socialism'?

    Grow up people and understand the facts yourselves instead of believing everything you hear on FOX news and these viral internet sites.

    August 16, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  21. NJ4Obama

    I worked too hard to get this president elected and I got private insurance. However, I must say that any talk of heath care reform that doens't include a public option shouldn't even be called reform.

    Mr. President, I respect you a lot and thought you were sincere when you campaign on the promise of fighting for what you believe. But I can tell you that if you sign any legislation that doesn't have a public option on it, I'll work twice as hard as I worked to get you elected to make you you don't get re-elected.

    August 16, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  22. Jeff

    That's what happens when you play with poll numbers and try to game the American people. The latest "compromise" is too little, too late.. Oh, they will pass some meanighless legislation and claim victory, but the benefit to Americans will be neglible.

    August 16, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  23. Indyal

    Well, that's it for me if the Dems cave on this. I never in a million years thought I'd say this, but I now wish I'd voted for Hillary in the primary. Hillary has more balls than the whole Democrat party combined. Hillary would not have caved.

    August 16, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  24. Sharon

    There is one question that keeps getting ignored. The President repeatedly states people can keep their private insurance. Is that really true? It is in the beginning. But ….. look on page 16 of HR 3200. It clearly says you are grandfathered in if you have private insurance on day one of Y1.. however, the next section says that private insurers cannot issue any new policies as of day 1 of Y1.. This means if you change jobs, or want to change your insurance plan you cannot get private insurance, but must go on the public plan. Therefore everything the President and proponents say is deceptive.
    This portion of the bill will eventually put private insurers out of business.

    August 16, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  25. girlsouth

    this makes sense.

    August 16, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
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