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. Brian

    Drop it obama!!! You've proven your ability to spend, spend, spend. You don't need to Push a socialistic plan on people who don't want anything to do with it.

    Focus on reducing government taxation, and leaving the money with the people for once !!!!

    August 16, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  2. AMH

    I want a government option. I do not trust the private sector because their CEOs are too greedy. I do not think we need health insurance at all. I am tired of paying $300 for laboratory fees that my insurance does not cover.

    I take care of myself: I exercise, I eat right and I control stress. I do not mind paying for other people's expensive treatments if they do what they can to keep themselves healthy. I don't mind contributing to medicaid and medicare if doctors stop making money on referring patients to tests, treatments and medications they do not need.

    I don't like the idea of doctors thinking that they own their patients and that they do not want input into their patients treatment if that input is helpful. We all have to give some on our egos. The arrogance has gone too far.

    August 16, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  3. Jon

    I love how Republican fools will all jump on the Hannity bandwagon, tout all his rants as facts, and cause another delay in getting adequate healthcare of any sort.
    The REPUBLICANS allowed Big Pharma to jack up all of its prices across the board, which causes all healthcare to go up across the board. Gee you guys never seem to talk about that though do ya. Bush also allowed them to hide their clinical trials of medicines so that the public wouldnt know what they were buying into. Hows that for caring about your constituents.

    August 16, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  4. Deven

    Europe and Canada have both had successful Healthcare systems in place for decades. But in America, we are forever trying to please our "Forefathers"....forever trying to live in denial of a workable system due to nothing more than ego and pride in our Capitalistic System. If we go back far enough, the Forefathers themselves were European.....and they were probably not as irrationally obsessed about riding a dead horse into defeat as we are today. Leave it to America to want a broken system to remain steadfastly in place as a National as to flag future generations to our incompetence and stubbornness as a culture.

    August 16, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  5. Corporate Fascists have taken over our country

    Its a sad day for America,when the rich dictate what we get to have as they line their pockets.I hope they all have their Swiss and offshore accts taxed.It will happen soon.hahaha

    August 16, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  6. Kristina, Seattle

    Don't roll over Obama! We NEED a strong public option.
    Keith in Austin – you are aware that MEDICARE is a single-payer system, right? Do you have any idea how many Americans are currently having a "love affair" with it?? Wake up.

    August 16, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  7. Brian in Oyster Bay

    Where are the SPENDING CUTS?
    And don't tell me you can't cut during a recession....
    Because its already ending even WITHOUT having 80% of the stimulus being spent!

    August 16, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  8. Rob from MO

    As now written, the bill passed by 3 committees of the House calls for the public option to be financed by premiums paid by enrollees, just like private plans. For recipients whose income is below a certain level, the government will subsidize the premiums for both types of plans. There is no advantage here for the public option. The big advantage the public option will have is that virtually all of the revenue will be paid out for health care enrollees receive, compared to only 70 to 75% for private plans. The other 25 to 30% is diverted to executive salaries, dividends, administrative costs, etc. People should have the option of paying for a plan where almost all the money goes for medical care.

    August 16, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  9. Freemas

    The idea put forward in these comments that a vote for Obama last November is a vote for a government health plan option today is absolute nonsense. Voters wanted a change in Administrations because of a struggling economy and the Iraq war. They did not vote for a takeover of banks, car companies and the health care system. Thus, the decline in Obama's popularity rating today and the lack of popular support for his policies. My God, you left wingers are coming across as unbelievably desperate.

    August 16, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  10. When does accountability begin?

    Liberals and Democrats need to quit blaming Republicans. Repubs DO NOT have the votes to stop this absurd gov't expansion. If we did, we sure would have been able to have some say in the development of health care reform. Since Dems didn't want to listen to any of the Repubs ideas, this is what you get.

    Maybe you just need someone to vent your anger too, I don't know, but it seems to me that if this was such a great idea, even your tax and spend liberal politicians would pass this.

    Hard for you liberals to believe that Americans, whether conservative or liberal are not a dumb as some of the saps on this blog.

    Sure wish we had a leader in place rather then a community organizer. Seems he can't even organize a community on his most important political objective.

    August 16, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  11. A

    Personally, I have been screwed by private insurance companies so many times that I resent that I have pay insurance premiums where a large percentage of my health care dollar goes to an insurance company's profit margin. I have a family and kids I have to have health insurance. It is a necessity. With a public option, I know my health care dollar is being spent on me and not padding the bank account of an insurance exec. So I strongly favor a public option and resent these conservos trying to deny me a choice. Having said that, the political realities are the political realities and I think it essential to get something done. If they craft a co-op that actually has some teeth with other regulations in place that seriously crack down on these insurance company shenanigans and is not a sham front I could hold my nose and support it to get reform done. But if congress let these conservos just carry water for the insurance companies and pass some sham then Obama should veto it.

    August 16, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  12. Paul, Los Angeles

    I am a lifelong Democrat who has become discusted with the Democratic Party. What was my party nb o longer seems to stand for anything. For eight years congressional democrats were willing to sit by and watch Bush/Cheney erode our basic freedoms and clearly violate both their oath to defend the constitution and the law.

    Now we see them starting to abandon a public option for health care. The so called "co-ops" are acceptable to insurance companies presisly becuase they will give them no real competition.

    Why are so few democrats willing to talk about the hundereds of people in this country who die every week becuase we refuse to provide public health care to our citizens as a right?

    August 16, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  13. JZ

    Don't give in to the idiots. The are being used by the insurers to protect their monopolies but crying "socialism." Public option is the answer!!!

    August 16, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  14. John Illinois

    Since the liberals are so gungho for this socialized healthcare garbage, if it is passed, they sign up for it and pay for it themselves. Do not tax people that are not on it and don't want it. Also, since the liberals always protect the illegal alien criminals, you can pay for them with your taxes to be on the socialized healthcare option.

    August 16, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  15. Diana

    Please do not let these "Old Folks" take the public option away. These same people that's screaming is the ones who are on social security and medicare.

    I'm in my 30's and we need a strong Public Option! The old people need to stop writing bills period. Term Limits Please!

    August 16, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  16. Corporate Fascists have taken over our country

    If lazy Americans would get off the couch and march on these Insurance Companies we would see change fast.Other countries are way ahead of us because they are active and take to the street.

    August 16, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  17. Dan

    Smoke and mirrors packed with lies!

    August 16, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  18. donna

    I have read the same comment over and over about your country being to big as opposed to the size of Canada France and Germany to sustain our type of health care. Think people! We have less population to cover the care, but it works. You have a bigger population as a tax base to cover the costs. It is all relevant. Size does not matter if the plan is correct.

    August 16, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  19. Tom L.

    It is so laughable to hear Democrats on here blame Republicans for blocking healthcare reform. Ummmmmm, even if every Republican voted against the bill, they still wouldn't have enough votes to stop it. The fact is, your proposals just aren't what most Americans want. Face it. Deal with it. Learn from it.
    Maybe you can then understand what most Americans want and what they think is fair. They don't want lawyers to sue frivolously. If they sue and lose, they should pay for it, not the insurance company that had to defend itself for no reason. Most Americans want competition. Competition helps to bring prices down. I should be able to buy my insurance from any state, not just my own.
    These are two ways that could help greatly. It wouldn't not be perfect, but it certainly would be a great start and much better than a complete overhaul. The government just is organized enough to be able to handle it.

    August 16, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  20. Ray in Phoenix

    Obama's single public option is dead. He has both the Senate and House. Shoot, he even has Al Frankin...and he can't get it done. Kudos to the American people for shutting this thing down.

    You can fool the American people, and win an election, using vague platitudes like, "change", but when the "change" smells like socialism , well...let just say that the American people are waking up.

    This is a GREAT day for America.

    August 16, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  21. A

    "Since the liberals are so gungho for this socialized healthcare garbage"
    If conservos are so up in arms about "socialism", then I take it they want o eliminate Social Security and Medicare because those are socialist programs. Senior citizens should be aware of this and know who really wants to pull the plug on Grandma.

    August 16, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  22. Nuts

    The health care bill is dead.
    Obama is nothing but an actor and should take lots more lessons.

    August 16, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  23. Nuts

    It is funny how Obama is back to blaming the insurance companies when he cut deals with the insurance companies.

    This health care bill is a very, very bad bill from page one to the very last page.

    Kill the whole bill.

    August 16, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  24. Freedom

    It's hard to trust the goverment to run a public option. When they talk about these bills i'm sure were not getting the whole truth. The people who have protested are normal americans who go about their daily lives. Until now they have got up off their sofas normal people. Not racist as some news people what you to think. I myself am in a interacial marr. My wife has protested with me severeal times. I've seen childern grandmoms ,and teenagers protesting. And to people like Keith O. shame on you sir for talking down to the people who have fought wars ,and payed taxes in our great country. To you Keith O. we have just as much say so in our countries goverment as much as you.

    August 16, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  25. Aisha 180

    Does anybody see the contradiction is the Lefts attack on seniors who use Medicare? They characterize them as greedy freeloaders who do not want to give up their health care. Funny people who paid into a system all their working years and expect to have the access to services promised are demonized so the left can give free care to people who have not paid didly squat into that promise. Funny the young Liberal wants free medical care while calling seniors who have paid a drag on society. Speaks volumes to this groups values system, me me me me me me.

    August 16, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
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