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. Mayan Calender may just be right

    2012,could be the beginning of the end.At least the rich cant take it with them or have anywhere to hide either.hahaha

    August 16, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  2. Bo

    Most of the mean spirited and hateful insults hurled here seem to be coming from Dems/liberals. Weren't you supposed to be the party of inclusion and fairness during the run up to the election? Now, with the tea parties and town halls, anyone who voices any concern about the health care plan is a "whacko, nut case, goon, or insurance lacky". Sounds like many libs feel "if you're not with us, you're against us". I fear a situation where one of the "competitors" makes the rules. The private companies cannot tax the government or make it follow their stipulations but the reverse would be true. Also we can't bank on paying for the gov't program through the simple "elimination of gov't inefficiencies" as Obama told people in a recent town hall. The gov't is rife with inefficiencies (DMV) And raising taxes on anyone forces them to pay for their own insurance AND for those who are on the gov't plan.

    August 16, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  3. JP

    John you freaking dope... I will be happy to pay for it when you reimburse me for the Iraq war. Idiots. You had no problem spending billions to kill people, but when it comes to spending money to provide healthcare you balk. How in the world does anyone see your party as that as one of morality? I have never seen such un-Christ-like group behavior, and mainly from those professing religion....

    Guys. It doesn't really matter if you like it or not. In much the same way the Dems had to suck it up when Bush was in power. You were outvoted (and thats the American way – remember) , more of us want it than those of you who don't and thats the way America works, unless you all are saying you are un-American? Are you Totalitarians or Anarchists? Must worse than socialists...

    We are a democracy, the voters have spoken, see ya in 3 years.

    August 16, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  4. A

    "The health care bill is dead."
    Actually the reality is they are on the verge of passing it and have consensus on 80% of the legislation and are closer than anyone has ever gotten. That is why wingnuts are coming out of the woodwork, making such outrageous fabrications to carry water for the insurance companies. I have one conservo friend who railed against health care reform in 93, has been diagnosed with cancer and was just dropped by his insurance company for a pre-existing condition. Talk about karma. He is singing a different tune about health insurance reform now to say the least.

    August 16, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  5. Jeremiah

    You are a bunch of liars. Now you are talking about raising taxes to pay for the health care. I seem to remember campaign promises that you would not raise taxes on the middle class. You want to socialize health care. I have a sister in law from Canada that had to wait 6 months to be seen for her leg which she fractured. You say you are not going to follow the Canadian formula for health care, yet show me a country which is having a good go with the socialized health care platform which you want to follow. It is nothing but a headache. You politicians are disgusting and absolutely idiotic.

    August 16, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  6. lis

    democraps want all illegal come here and amnesty to power freak and get free medicare as long they vote democraps and let old US citizen DIE

    August 16, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  7. Ask not what big business can do for you but what can you do for big business

    The free markets will fix health care all by itself, here is how. Insurance premiums will become so high and the denial of procedures so great that most people will drop health insurance and not go to the doctor at all. Americans will decide to risk their lives rather than become victims of a greedy robber baron system. Then doctors and insurance companies will go bankrupt just like they always do when government regualtions are lifted. I just hope they don't get bailed out by our treasury department.

    August 16, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  8. A

    "Does anybody see the contradiction is the Lefts attack on seniors who use Medicare?"
    Who on the left is attacking seniors over medicare? This is a ridiculous statement. Since wingnuts are so against "socialism" then they must be against Medicare because that is a socialist program. Hey Grandma, guess who really wants to pull the plug on you?

    August 16, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  9. big papa

    The President is a pragmatic man, but no fool...

    ...Health Care reform without a vigorous public option is a lose-lose for Dems...

    ...In the final analysis, and I'm sure Emanuel, Axelrod and company realize this...

    ...Allowing racist ,inbred conservative traitors– who would NEVER vote for Pres. Obama anyway– ANY say in this matter...

    ...would not only be political suicide, it would be STUPID!

    ...The Obama team didn't get to the White House by being stupid...

    August 16, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  10. Peter E

    Exactly whose interests are we serving? The people or the insurance executives? Oh, poor executives would only making millions in bonuses instead of tens of millions! And BTW it is incredibly hypocritical to claim on one end that government can't do anything efficiently and will be too expensive, while at the same time claiming it will run private insurers out of business. If private insurers are so much better and efficient then government wouldn't even attempt to set up a competietion and everyone would be happy. The very reason government is stepping in is because private insurers have been dishonest, and have been making profit off of DENYing needed care to millions of their customers!

    August 16, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  11. Randy

    All of you that are crying socialism, do you have any idea what you're talking about.....what Obama is proposing is far from socialism, trust me we are not even close to it. I lived in the UK for a year and the healthcare was great....most importantly, they morally take care of everyone.....I'm ashamed that in a nation of so called Christians that care for their fellow man can sleep at night knowing that we let 50 million people suffer without proper medical care.....Medicine should not be a business.....period. Where is your humanity!!!

    August 16, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  12. Emilee

    18% of the GDP

    Gosh, good stuff!

    August 16, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. mahesh

    Say no to Federal govt. getting involved with our health care choices.They have made social security and medicare bankrupt by spendin,spending,spending it for over 30 years on general spending,spending,spending and did not save surpluses for 30 years.What on earth you think they will do to health care.Ask your Rep. where is the trillions of dollar surplus from social security and medicare?
    Learn from Mistakes of California, state is broke inspite of collecting 800% more property tax today compared to 30 years ago when prop.13 was passed and collecting 500% more in all other taxes and infinite ammount of fees.Do not let Govt. take over your health plans.
    Distribution of wealth makes more poor people.Obama keeps truth hidden, 45 million people without health care is wrong.correct number is about 15 million, rest are illegals and others who do not buy insurance but can afford to.

    August 16, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. bernie mihm

    .I don’t understand why liberals are so against coops.

    time and time again i hear that the believe the cost of health care is so high because of insurance company CEO's salaries and the company profits. COOPs should eliminate these two expenses.

    Is it because they hope that taxpayers (someone other than themselves) will pay part of their premiums in a government health insurance company?

    Is it because they hope that the public option will eventually become a single payers system with the single payer being the US government health insurance company?

    Health care reform is needed but President Obama is correct in saying that the public option does not need to be part of it.

    Congress has proven to be very poor at fiscal management. We have had only 6 balanced budgets in the last 40 years. Our budget deficits are getting worse. Medicare Medicaid and Social Security are all in bad shape financially. It is not in our counties best interest to start a new US Government health insurance company.

    August 16, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  15. A

    "You are a bunch of liars. Now you are talking about raising taxes to pay for the health care. I seem to remember campaign promises that you would not raise taxes on the middle class. You want to socialize health care."

    The only tax increase I have heard proposed is on incomes over $250,000. So you have the facts wrong. The only one who has suggested taxing the middle class is GOP Senator Chuck Grassley who wants to tax employers for providing health insurance, basically a tax on the middle class. If you are so horrified against "socialism" then please let Grandma know that you intend to get rid of Social Security and Medicare, 2 socialist programs. Get your facts straight before you knee jerk react to everything.

    August 16, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  16. Rick O in Blue Springs

    What have the Republican done for health care the last 25 years. Wake up Democrats. If your blow this chance the GATES will flow with Republican in 2010 and 2012 from low Democrat turn out. House and Sen. Democrats you better really think hard about this. Blue dogs = Republican in sheep clothes (I guess Insurance money talks).

    August 16, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  17. Proud member of "Global Zero"

    The President has stated in both townhalls that he is for a public option. He is the whitehouse. Nobody listens anymore. WE will not blame the President if this plan does not have a public option....we voted for this....we will blame the congress. They will NOT win another term.

    Term limits!!!!!

    August 16, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  18. J TN

    What good are these CoOps going to be? I'm lost as to how this is going to correct the malpractice and price gouging of the Insurance agencies. Why are we going to keep up being the only country in the world with only private insurance options when we are like 36th in the world in quality of health care?
    Not a single other country has followed us down this path. I think it's about time we turned around and followed the rest of the world for a change. Seems we're the ones you've had it wrong.

    August 16, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. Tony

    Does anybody talk about intake of sickening dead food?

    What we take-in causes what comes out.

    Garbage in – cancer out.

    Fresh food without Monsanto genetic engineering, fresh spring water instead of soda pops, fitness instead of couch potato.

    Being a real AMERICAN, thinking with an OWN brain, instead of mimicking Limbaugh and similar, will reduce medical expenses.

    Turning insurers who work for shareholder profits into responsible cost-covering cooperatives, implementing European chip cards with nation-wide databases, will reduce bloated administrations turning them into massive cost reductions.

    Why can Europe and Japan do it?

    Why not New Hampshire monopolies?

    We should de-list all Medical Insurers who hold shares in chemical companies. First we poison our food – then we treat poisoned bodies and pay for insurers while for all 3 instances the major shareholders are the same. We must stop with these monopolies!

    August 16, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  20. J TN

    We are all suckers if we let the special interests, paid lobbyists and crooked republicans and democrats fool us into thinking that health care reform is a danger to us. It is absolutely essential for so many reasons for our representatives in Washington to get this done.
    Listening to people who trash our government is absolutely counter productive. We live in a country based on democratically elected representatives of the people themselves. The only thing wrong with our government is that lobbyists are allowed to pay for influence on Capitol Hill and change our elected officials into their representatives instead of ours. The biggest mistake Obama has made is not eliminating paid lobbyists on capitol hill before trying to tackle health care reform. I also really believe half the people on these blogs that attack health care reform are actually shills for these lobbyists and special interests, trying to manipulate public opinion any way they can.
    Believe me, the health insurance and pharmaceutical companies have plenty of money to pay thousands of people to do just that. Unfortunately it seems to be working. The United States of Sheep are letting them buy public opinion just like they are buying our elected representatives. Please, help us all if we fail to get this done. It will likely be our last chance.

    August 16, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  21. Kathy

    I have read the bill. There are very few specifics. Mostly about all the added committees that will be formed as part of this "reform". If they were really serious about fixing healthcare, there are better ways with doing it without complete government control. Sometimes it is better to start small, fix things one at a time. But it seems like the current administration wants it all and wants it NOW. (I'm talking about our hard earned money here) One of the things that burns me is the bill includes free care for illegals. Health care facilities will have to have interpreters or face penalty. The cost of this bill will be huge. I don't know about you, but I just can't afford it.

    August 16, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  22. charlie in Maine

    Don't let me down Barack. I helped get you a mandate and, I want you to use it. Mark my words Democrats if you blow it this time like you did in 1993 the GOP will seize on your inaction and take over again. We all know what that did for the country. Do you want Rove and his buddies cooking up some falsehood about Obama? "The House committee on birth certificates" or some other made up crap? I didn't think so.
    Act and act fast or your majority will be history along with the chance to do the right thing.

    August 16, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  23. Ray in Phoenix

    Relax JP, American Democracy IS working. People want Health Care Reform, they just don't see socialized medicine as the answer. Deal with it. And since you mentioned the War....

    You're ranting at the wrong people, your boy Obama is the one failing to pulling troops out of Iraq, like he promised, and OBAMA is the one escalating the war in Afghanistan.

    Sorry man, reality can be a tough pill to swallow....

    August 16, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  24. slp

    All of you who keep spouting off about Medicare and medicaid being a government run program are only proving the point that this healthcare plan is a bad idea. Both of these government run programs are bankrupt. Why on earth would we trust the government to do any better with our healthcare? The majority of people who are against this bill do not deny that some healthcare reform is needed. We just don't want a complete overhaul of the current system. I do not want the government to dictate to me what doctor I can see and what treatments I can get and when. Yes, the insurance companies do do that to a degree now but at least I have the recourse to fight it. I won't have that with the government. There will be no discussion and I will just have to live with it. NO THANKS! If all of you liberals really want to help the poor, empower them by showing them how to take care of themselves. It is an elitist mentality to keep people down by providing them with everything rather than showing them how good it feels to provide for themselves. That sounds racist to me. If someone loses their healthcare because the lose their job or don't have it because they aren't provided it at work, well then that is something that needs to be reformed. Reform doesn't mean getting rid of our whole current system, just the parts that aren't working.

    August 16, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  25. Joe citizen abroad

    The insurance industry in the US is, and has been, out of control for decades. They are investment bankers with no accountability to the people who fund them...the public. President Obama should use his authority in the same way Teddy Roosevelt did when he initiated anti-trust actions. Enough is enough.

    August 16, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
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