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. Aunt Bea and Opie

    All these people crying about socialism dont seem to mind borrowing money from and buying all their products from Communists.Yea make them richer so we can fight them some day and make more money from weapons?

    August 16, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  2. rasabu

    1. I am fascinated by all those people who write on these pages about "what the American people want." People should speak for themselves. No one knows what is in the minds of others.
    2. Those who think that a public option will bring socialism to America have not read their history books or did not pay attention in their American government classes:
    A. Franklin Roosevelt brought the Social Security System to the American People so that seniors who did not have financial resources would have something to live on.
    B. Lyndon Johnson brought Medicare to the American people to provide medical insurance to all seniors, regardless of wealth. The problem today is we have so many seniors, and we have many seniors who can afford their own insurance. It is high time they started paying more into the health insurance system if they can afford it. There is no reason an 80 year old American who has $1,000,000 plus int he bank and receives dividends, etc should not be paying higher Medicare premiums than other seniors.
    3. I am tired of hearing about Democrats and Republicans in health care debate. I thought the people elected Barack Obama-not me-to bring change and bi-partisanship to Washington? Let us show the world we can do what they can do. Let us get beyond partisan politics and work together to bring the common goals of the founding fathers to all Americans:life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    I believe the American people have the will and the ability to bring this change. Let us think of one another. Let us think of the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Let us bring America into the 21st century. We know we can do it!

    August 16, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  3. J TN

    The average American refuses to accept that the Republican Nation is at war with the working-class, which is why republicans support the status quo and vehemently oppose single-payor healthcare, public education, government oversight, minimum wage hikes, worker rights, access to higher education, middleclass tax relief, and, in general, any legislation that would jeopardize the continuation of a credit-dependent, employer exploited, unhealthy, downtrodden, underpaid, debt-laden, undereducated and permanent class of laborers. Similar to exploited sharecroppers, it’s in the best interest of republicans to keep the working-class hopeless, oppressed, unhealthy, undereducated and debt-laden. Republicans staunchly supported the bailout of Wall Street to protect their own assets, but opposed the bailout out the automobile industry, which employs thousands of middleclass Americans. The republican aristocracy opposes any kind of governmental oversight that will interfere with their pursuit of exploitive capitalism; republicans would like to abolish the Departments of Agriculture, Transportation, Interior, Education and The Food and Drug Administration, because these agencies advocate for workers. Just like feudal lords, the Republican Nation requires a formidable army to protect their financial interests, which is why republicans defend unrestrained military spending. According to the CBO, the Iraq War will cost $2.6 trillion over 10 years; health insurance for every American would cost $1.2 trillion over the same period. Republicans want to keep America angrily divided by class and race. Universal health insurance provides hope and would elevate the standard of living for every American, something republicans don’t want.

    August 16, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  4. mike

    And the Sunday morning hate-fest continues.

    August 16, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  5. Steve Boer

    To abandon the public option in favor of doomed-to-fail "co-ops" is to rip the guts out of health care reform and to leave the people at the mercy of greedy insurance companies, who will face no real competition and will have no incentive to lower or control premiums. Apparently those huge campaign contributions from the insurance industry are more important to the senators than the well-being of their constituents!
    If private health insurance companies are deemed too sacred to have to face real competition from a public plan, perhaps we should emulate the successful Dutch model, on which all health insurance is provided by private companies which are then strictly regulated as public utilities.

    August 16, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  6. James L.

    Randy: Get your head on straight and quit putting out misleading quips. Health care is available to everyone in America. The health care bill is supposed to be about helping everyone who needs it, get health insurance. The 50 million number floating around has been debunked time and time again. Many of those folks are bullet-proof young people who have the money, but elect not to pay for health insurance. Illegal immigrants are already receiving health treatment and we are paying for it. All in all there are about 17 million people that really need help. How about making the suggestion that the hundreds of billions and trillions of dollars Congress is wasting be transferred to health care/insurance for these 17M folks. HHMMM. Oh, bad idea, huh.

    August 16, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. Quantico Cat

    Health care reform? Sure, let's do it.
    Socialized medicine and/or government expansion? Absolutely not.

    August 16, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. Brad C. - Georgia

    People keep saying the healthcare reform bills proposed now will INCREASE COSTS. Everyone seems to forget that a goal should be to DECREASE the current overly inflated costs charged by almost ALL medial providers, suppliers, and healthcare related companies. Talk about a costs saving to pay for the plan! The entire healthcare system has turned into a profit center and anyone involved in it, down to the person working on 1099 contract to sell medical equipment, believes they are entitled to earn gross profits from any involvement in our healthcare system. That is the status quo; the idea that there's plenty of money to be made if one gets involved in healthcare in some manner. There's no reason that a procedure on my knee for which I can be in and out of an outpatient center in 2 hours should cost nearly $13000. There's the money to be saved. Additionally, most citizens don't realize how much of their state/local tax dollars are spent to pay for the health insurance coverages of the employees of their governments; health insurance plans that are overpriced. The employee fringe rate in the state of Georgia I believe is something like 40% and a large portion of that goes to cover healthcare costs. Imagine if state and local governments didn't have to pour all that tax money into healthcare coverage for their employees.

    August 16, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  9. Randy


    You over simplify things by saying healthcare is available to everyone in America......flat wrong my friend.....if you are poor or have a pre-existing condition and can't afford/get insurance, you have to go bankrupt and spend virtually all your money before any meaningful public assistance is available and from then on your credit and financial future is most often step mom had insurance and died of breast cancer....her insurance ran out within months and our glorious health system tried to take her house....that's crazy. The simple fact is that we are the only modern, industrialized nation where you have to worry about money when you are very any conservative or liberal, it should be painfully obvious that this is immoral and inhuman.

    August 16, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  10. BelieveIt WhenYouSeeIt

    Great news if the "public-option" is scrapped.. but will it just be called a different name like"public cooperative"??? Who believes what a politician says??? Let's see it in writing

    Wouldn't it be great to see the savings of ObamaCare FIRST, then add the uninsured as savings are realized??? Of course, this is like "securing the borders first, then amnesty for all."

    How about cross-state competition amongst insurers, tort reform and more individual involvement with medical care as a consumer?

    August 16, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  11. Ray in Phoenix

    Good job J TN, keep whining about some "vast Right Wing conspiracy"...while you have the White House, Senate and house of Reps. Sorry bro, It just doesn't pass the smell test.

    Socialism will always be rejected in America, that's why Obama will lose in 2012. His brand of "change" has been exposed, and the American people are rejecting it....big time. Deal with it.

    August 16, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  12. A

    "Health care reform? Sure, let's do it.
    Socialized medicine and/or government expansion? Absolutely not."

    Medicare is socialized medicine. Any reform necessitate some expansion of the government. The alternative is to have private insurance companies have control of your life like they do now. You conservos do realize that private insurance companies ration your care and pull the plug on Grandma now don't you? You do realize that your employer can drop or change your current insurance now don't you? You you wingnuts live in a cave or something?

    August 16, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  13. Stu

    The government should keep out of our healthcare. Socializing an entire industry is not the answer. Social security, medicaire/medicaid, the income tax code, etc are examples of how bad the government messes things up.

    Tort reform is needed. Punitive awards need to be abolished. Only actual damages should be allowed. Between malpractice insurance and writing off the medical costs that are not paid to the doctor or hospital, this all gets billed right back to the rest of us and is what keeps healthcare costs so high.

    August 16, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  14. pcs / North Carolina

    JP wrote August 16th, 2009 12:05 pm ET

    "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….

    Well said JP. Pro- lifers do not mind sending troops to war, so that their buddies KBR, Haliburton makes a killing, but balks on spending money to save lives here in U.S.A.

    We need Health Care Overhaul:

    1) Govt run plan to compete with the private Health insurance (PHI) vultures. PHI denies coverage on pre-exciting conditions which is discrimination against the sick and needy. Pro-lifers do not value life’s of others but only themselves.

    2) PHI do not provide any medical services, they just collect premiums and try to deny coverage / reimbursements to hospital and doctors. Providers in Canada get paid every month vs in U.S.A, it could be 6 -8 months if you are lucky. Streamline all reimbursement procedures, and have a universal set of forms for claims.

    3) Tort reforms to cap at $250,000 for non economic damages for pain and suffering. So that an unemployed 30yr old , who never worked, would not go for a frivolous lawsuit to win a $500mil “lottery”.

    4) let the big pharma go through competitive bidding process. So that “Lipitor” in USA would not cost three times that in Canada!!

    5) Register and record all the procedures performed in a centralized database, so that doctors and hospitals would not be able to get paid for duplicate and unnecessary procedures.

    What are the Arrogant, Tea party going Rethuglicans in the Town Hall meetings who never voted for Obama saying?

    A) Socialize medicine have waiting lists – Yes we do have waiting lists too, and sometime we are denied even preventive care, let alone the hip replacement. ! Do not forget the preexisting conditions, co-pays, deductibles and all other jargon that we face everyday.
    B) Do not let the Government touch my Medicare !! – Medicare is a Government run program.
    C) Following is a breakdown of healthcare coverage in U.S.A
    81 million is covered by Government run programs (Medicare,Medicaid,VA)
    151 million have health insurance through their employer
    47 million is uninsured
    14 million have private insurance

    U.S.A spends 17% of GDP on Healthcare, and we have 47million uninsured + 6 million recently laid off ( who can not afford COBRA $ 1600/monthly). U.S.A is 37th in W.H.O health care statistics, just barely above CUBA !! Yes CUBA.

    All other G8 countries spend 7% of their GDP on Healthcare, and they have universal coverage. We should do better than this. Pro-lifers should be ashamed of their hypocrisy. We have the best military in the world, which is a government run program, why not Healthcare. Just layout the facts, not the political garbage and tea parties, when we are discriminating the sick for the sake of profits.

    August 16, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  15. Tell us something we havent known for years

    American Insurance Companies have been killing the young and the elderly for years.They are great at covering it up,just like republicans and cats doo.

    August 16, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  16. Stu


    To correct you. FDR brought social security to the USA only to provide a supplemental income for a short time (retirees were not expected to live that long after retirement like they do now) and ONLY for the worker. It was never intended to be a pool of money for the surviving spouse, dependent children, or to go to people who NEVER paid a dime into the system. But, being the good government that can't keep its hands off a pool of money, that is what happened. People who never work, exist on welfare generation after generation, also get social security benefits. Same goes for elderly immigrants whose children come here legally, gain citizenship, then sponsor the aged parent into the US. After a while, the parent gets social security benefits even though he/she never worked a day in the US.

    LBJ's "Great Society" has done nothing but turn this country into a welfare state, with an "entitlement" mentality.

    Both are prime examples of why the federal government should keep out of our healthcare.

    August 16, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  17. A

    "Great news if the "public-option" is scrapped.. but will it just be called a different name like"public cooperative"
    Why are conservos so intent on defending the status quo and carrying water for insurance companies that ration our care, pull the plug on Grandma, drop people for pre-existing conditions, cherry pick only healthy people to cover, double premiums every 5 year, crush small businesses and entrepreneurship while their profits skyrocket? I mean, what is so great about private insurance that is worth defending? It is a corrupt and broken system that is bankrupting the country and is a leech on the sould of America.

    August 16, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. Terence

    The commentator did a great job of supporting the Republican talking points on health care. I noticed that there were two Republican speakers to one Democratic nurse. He also cut her off before she could make her point. Also, he cut off the secretary of health. This was not accurate reporting on the issue. It was nothing more than an infomercial for the insurance companies.

    August 16, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. MK

    Once again most of the "haves" are dictating what the rest of the country should have. Private health insurers routinely deny people from their plans based on medicines they take or once took. Any insurance agent will attest to that, if they are telling the truth. I am sick of this debate being distorted by the poor insurance companies who are just deathly afraid they will lose a dime of their precious profits to a public plan. Insurance companies saw a 428% raise in their profits in 2007. I have not even had a cost of living wage increase this year, let alone a 428% pay increase. Wake up people and get out of they way of this reform, we all need it.

    August 16, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  20. Mike in Texas

    I give the President credit for being open to different ideas. This is how things are supposed to work. One side comes in with everything they want, knowing they aren't going to get it. The other side comes in with things they want, knowing they won't get it all. You start discussing and negotiating and come to a consensus. It is like buying a car. The seller says 20K the buyer 15k. The seller goes down to 19K the buyer up to 16k and you keep going until you reach an agreement. If one side is unwilling to budge then nothing gets done. Doing nothing is not the answer people.

    August 16, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  21. A

    "Tort reform is needed. Punitive awards need to be abolished. Only actual damages should be allowed."

    I agree to a point. Frivolous lawsuits are a problem. If they can have Tort reform that doesn't prevent someone from suing the hell out of someone for truly being victimized by corruption or criminal neglect, then I could support that.

    August 16, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  22. Randy

    Health Insurance Mafia are worst than Terrorists.

    Terrorist kills innocent with Guns.

    Health Insurance Mafia kills innocent by Health Care Deprivation.

    Health Insurance Mafia consists of Rich people like Madoff, who became Rich by Plunder, Embazzlement, Extortion.

    Health Insurance Mafia, pays Bribes to GOP.

    GOP supports Health Insurance Mafia, to oppose Obama's Plan.

    GOP consists of Criminals, Scoundrels, Rascals and Bastards.

    August 16, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. A

    "LBJ's "Great Society" has done nothing but turn this country into a welfare state, with an "entitlement" mentality."
    So then why don't you conservos come out on record and support eliminating Social Security and Medicare, 2 socialist programs? Grandma should know who really wants to pull the plug.

    August 16, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  24. Buck

    I always just thrill the hell out of myself when I see that "NON PROFIT" version of something. Buy some vaseline real quick...

    August 16, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  25. Tony

    Should we not CARE more for HEALTH through a healthier living?

    Why do we CARE SO MUCH for the fat pockets of the shareholders of the MEDICAL INSURERS?

    How can anybody in his HEALTHY MIND think that the current system is HEALTHY when it costs more than double than in EUROPE or JAPAN?

    August 16, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
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