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. MatthewDetroit

    NOW it is time to drop the whole thing.
    NONE of the provisions in the health care bill are good.
    NO free health care for illegals.
    NO end of life counseling.
    NO abortion coverage.
    NO public option.
    NO goverment involvement.
    NO additional taxes for those over 250k.
    NO NO NO.
    WHY dont you try to take care of the post office.
    They are going broke and now going to stop Saturday deliveries.
    You dont know how to run a business and you are running our debt into the ground. STOP spending our money and keep your dirty hands off.

    August 16, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  2. Buster

    Tort reform is the only way but then Obama would have to actually faceoff with his biggest contributors, the lawyers. As alway, Dutch, Larry, and Sniffit please quit taking money from my middle income family to support yourselves.

    August 16, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  3. Tony

    Forget about details.

    Should we not rather think WHAT HAS TO BE DONE to REDUCE COST by 50% without reducing what we have already.

    Why do we lose ourselves in non-resolved details?

    Let's focus on the objectives!

    Cut unreasonable profits for insurers and pharmaceutical (chemical) shareholders.

    August 16, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  4. Can't wait till 2012

    I love how you uniformed Obama sheep are stil blaming Republcans when the fact is that your coward in chief could get WHATEVER he wanted passed if all the Democrats went along, the problem the coward is running into is that some non-sheep Democrats are not towing the line with all his uh, uh, uh, uh non-specific big dreams.

    The real HEROES here are the Democrats, Republicans and independents that took the time to speak out at these town halls and I went as an independent to voice my concerns as well, not a mob, but people fed up with Pelosi, Reid and the fraud in chief and their lies and non-factual responses.

    Tort reform, the ability to buy insurance across state lines and NO public option are three REPUBLICAN/INDEPENDENT ideas that are GOOD, make the reform specific to what needs to be fixed as you don't tear down a whole house to fix a leak in your basement unless you are a nitwit lefty liberal like your "president" (no cap deserved).

    Work and listen to independents/moderates and some conservative ideas and keep the fringe elements of both sides out of it and we will get the needed MINOR refoms that we need.

    August 16, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  5. Unemployed for too long

    Looks like the insurance giants are winning. After years of unbridled greed and fraud, these asses are proving that lobbying can corrupt a political movement and leave the public to swallow a horrible pill.

    Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius implies if not flat out states that non-profit insurance is an acceptable option while dismissing the public option. If there's any truth to that, how will the greedy weasles compete with not for profit? How will they build the finest archetecture and control Congress if they cannot reap enormous profits?

    Sounds like double talk to me!

    August 16, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  6. Save America

    LIAR !!!!! You just want to give it another name and come in the backdoor.
    CAN YOU SAY TORT REFORM FIRST !!!!! Of course not. There is no control in that.

    August 16, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  7. Tom

    President Obama, don't give in. What is the point of Health Care reform if there is no public option? Instead of making concession after concession to these Republicans on the reform, do what you know is right. Keep the public option in, keep pushing back on all the misinformation being spewed by the right, and put pressure on these spineless Dems in Washington to support the bill! This is our shot, man!

    August 16, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  8. exrepublican

    The bible says to take care of the sick and poor. A tax on the richest 1% in America, those with incomes over $250,000 per year, makes sense. After all, they have benefited greatly in this land of the free and should give back to society. They will still live very well.

    August 16, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  9. Aspen Professor

    Any time there is competition for participation in a Govt. bill, I like it more. It is the democratic way of doing business. That makes sense for the Private Organization inclusion in the Health Care bill.

    Speaking of Health Care, has anyone discovered how much the screamers at the town hall meetings are being paid by the Repubs and Conservs, and/or Insurance Companies for their time and expenses? AND, is their bus and out-of-pocket being covered as well?

    Just asking.

    August 16, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  10. Concerned Citizen

    When will Obama tell the truth? Whats next teaching Russian as a second language?

    August 16, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. Howard

    OK, so just WHAT is it you want to spend $10.1 Trillion on??

    Obama said,“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. "

    This is the classic shell game.

    It's a good thing, Obama could not force it (whatever "it" is) through before the Congressional summer break.

    August 16, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. S M R

    The same compitition that should have taken place In Iraq to drive down the price charged by the Halliburton Company.

    August 16, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  13. Concerned Citizen

    Reagan was the great communicator, Obama is the great dictator.

    August 16, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  14. Guy

    So this was in fact the behind the door made with the Insurance guy's
    They don't want nay competition.

    Good job Obama for the change we wanted

    – 1 year for the credit cards companies to get fair
    – Money to the banks and no help to homeowners in need (but good deals for C. Dode & others)
    – Greed an big bonuses back
    – No energy bill
    – Money wasted in stimulus

    If this goes the way it is now with just powder & dust to the american people, whoever is not democrat will get my vote next time.
    I know they will be liers too but who cares as long as Pelosi and others will have no more voice

    August 16, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  15. txleadhead

    Better change something. Those of us on Social Security sure ain't happt with it.

    August 16, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  16. Sherrie F., Eugene, Oregon

    The pharmacutical company's have this Nation so popped up on drugs that YOU are your own demise people! I'm sorry Mr. President Obama. They're sick and I am forever sorry for this country.

    August 16, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  17. ran

    As long as it is non-profit and the money goes toward our health then that is fine with me.

    My premiums would be going toward health not multimillion $ salaries/bonuses to insurance executives or dividends to shareholders, trying to make money off my health, or insurance companies' private jets.

    Yes to any style non-profit option. I am confident that once people see how much money will be saved with a non-profit, we will get to the true way to deliver health care which is single payer non-profit universal.

    I can wait till the others get to that same conclusion with a non-profit co-op option for me now.

    August 16, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    G O P 1

    Barry 0

    August 16, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  19. annie for Palin

    There is NO competion between private sector & government it is simply a government takeover with REAL AMERICAN CITIZENS paying the price of rationed or no health care. obama looked at health ins. companies and decided he wanted his hand in the cash register. The things that would help the cost of health care the most would be removing 'illegal' immigrants from this country, closing the borders to only the ones applying for citizenship and tort reform. None of these are in obama's government rationed hell-th care plan.

    August 16, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  20. Hope

    We are waiting to replace every democrat who does not vote for a public option in 2010 they have been warned.

    August 16, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  21. Claudia in Houson

    There is no win or defeat because no healthcare bill has been passed therefore everything is still up for debate and changes. You think maybe you missed out on that fact, if so let me repeat myself, no healthcare reform bill has been passed.

    August 16, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  22. Guy

    I forgot:

    We have the best workers in the world but also the most expensive thanks to some unions deals (look at the recent cuts in the pension cost per hour (up to 8 $) for the workers in the trucking business)

    So now we have no manufacturing industries just services.

    We have the best heallhcare in the world after Cuba.

    We will have a unique healthcare system in the USA because we are so much better that any body else in the world and by the way that public option let's trash it so we/politicians can continue to get some monies from Pharma, Doctors and Insurances.

    Look at these creasy "modern" countries in Europe and others who all have a public option. The can't understand how much better we are.
    Look at the folks in Canada who are waiting for the best healthcare in the world.
    BY the way, my doctor in FL charges $320 to my insurance for a medication refill, I should be happy and proud that he makes more money that any lawyer(US) money.

    Great Obama, for the deal behing closed doors...

    August 16, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  23. eolufemi

    The public option is a sliver of health reform, but it's pretty obvious that you can't require a for-profit insurance companies to cover the sick. If anything that's going to bankrupt insurance companies when people only get covered when they need major surgery or some other treatment. I got to wonder what people who oppose the public option think insurance companies are going to do to survive under those conditions. You better believe that there will be even worse rationing of care than there is now, and the cost of serving additional sick people will be passed along to consumers.

    The public option is absolutely necessary because it will essentially catch people who would normally fall through the cracks, and without the profit incentive they won't need to pass on costs to other customers to maintain their profit margins.

    If the only goal is to reduce costs for some consumers and increase profits for insurance companies than I can't support health care reform. I believe our government has an important role in promoting the general welfare of the people. If anything I'd like to see less government involvement in our personal lives, and less unnecessary aggression toward relatively weak nations. We spent nearly a trillion dollars mucking around in Afghanistan and Iraq with no purpose. Without those two misadventures, we'd have a surplus and could easily afford to do the right thing by our own people regarding healthcare.

    August 16, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  24. Bld

    Some points to consider.

    Medicare is NOT socialized medicine. Medicare is a single-payer system, and it works quite well. Except for a few hospitals and doctors that cheat.

    VA hospitals are socialized medicine. Hospitals are owned by the government, and the doctors, nurses, other staff are employees of the government. VA medical care has worked well, except when money needed for medical care was sent to KBR, Halliburton, black water, and maybe some other rip-off companies instead of to the VA.

    Private, for-profit insurance companies contribute NOTHING to health care. They just skim money off the top, to enrich their executives. Oh, they do keep a lot of sick people from crowding the hospitals.

    August 16, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  25. arlene,CA

    I am getting more & more disappointed in John King's State of the Union. He had on 2 repubs, l dem nurse& then did not let her ( the dem nurse) finish her point. I do not think that is good reporting.

    August 16, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
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