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. Mike

    08/16/09 Mark the date as the end of the Obama presidency as all of his promises go up in smoke.

    August 16, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  2. A

    "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."

    How? In many states there are only one or two insurance options that you have. You have zero control over what insurance your employer provides. If you can "fight them" then why are so many people being left in the dust by these insurance companies when they cherry pick and drop folks with pre-existing conditions? If the government passes a regulation that makes it illegal for a private insurance company to drop you if you have a pre-existing condition, have a private insurance company ration your care or limit what doctor you can see then it is that not a good thing? If the government does nothing then they are in effect doing what you argue against, preserving a status quo where private insurance companies ration your care.

    August 16, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  3. Badboy

    You liberals sure get your hackles up when there is any article that doesn't kiss Obama's backside! Funny, how he was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread and peanut butter...kinda dry and hard to swallow without something to wash it down! Don't get too bent out of can continue to blame Bush for everything. it is what Obama does!!!

    August 16, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  4. Dang America is getting dumb...

    So heres the deal, this isnt a party thing. All the Republicans try to harp on the Democrats and say its some big party thing. Pathetic. Then everyone against the reform points out other countries shortcomings in specific circumstances. Even more pathetic.
    Healthcare in America today is truly horrible. Insurance companies fight to prevent people who truly need it the care they need to simply live. Big Pharma has been allowed to jack up the rices on medications that dont work correctly simply so they can put people on multiple medications and make even more. This is the health care you back when you say we dont need reform. Look at the facts, think before you speak, and for gods sake dont be a Hannity puppet.

    August 16, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  5. Kate

    Are they just changing the name of the public option. I don't trust these people at all.

    August 16, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  6. Cheri N.

    One of two things need to happen. 1) Government raises minimum wage so those 50 million can afford health insurance. Or 2) They decide on something now. I currently have health insurance. I really like mine. But I'm moving to Massachusetts who has it really bad. I can't take my insurance with me. Why should I have to suffer because I won't be covered there? Why can't health insurance be like life insurance? It goes where you go. And why aren't our eyes and mouth covered on health insurance? It is apart of our overall health. If I were to pay for medical, dental and vision in Massachusetts. I would be paying close to $1000 a month. That is impossible making $8 an hour. Our government needs to make a choice and make it soon. Or they might find that we might start immigrating to other countries.

    August 16, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  7. Dylan , Orange County CA

    Yeah why is CNN especially Lou Dobbs so bent on negative spin and trying to shoot down the initiative before any formal bill is even drafted?
    Please check yourselves and try not to become Faux News and propaganda machine for the lobbyists.

    August 16, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  8. george in MD

    what would be different in the new proposed health-care plan that's gives free care and other tax funded care to illegals.
    just like my state of Maryland that gives drive licenses to illegals and welfare benefits and health benefits to illegals immigrants.
    CNN should come to towson area emergency rooms and other places in my state and give a fact report on issues with truths and trusts, so tax paying citizens see why the cost of health-care going up.
    the fact that we have 30 million illegals, under new health-care plan were these people going get their free care?...from same place that they do now...our government plan of-course.

    August 16, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  9. A

    "The average American refuses to accept that the Republican Nation is at war with the working-class"

    Just look at how conservatives deregulated the financial industry so that they could run amok at our expense. They bellyache about all the bailout money we have spent to save us from an economic meltdown, but this meltdown was caused by an unregulated free-market system that they empowered. Listening to conservos bellyache is like listening to a frat boy who has set fire to his frat house and then complains about how much water the fire department uses to put the fire out.

    August 16, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  10. how to fix health care

    1) Fix the system to not allow frivolous lawsuits to go unpunished anymore. Place caps and a regulation on that so dr's insurance will not be so high of a cost to dr's.

    2) Instead of creating a public health insurance option, create government run companies to manufacture medicine and or implement a bidding system for the lowest bidder. Cost of medicine in this country is outrageous and its a big reason we have to pay out so much.

    3) (not necessary, but optional) Tax those uninsured on a per month basis a fraction of their salary to feed a gov health program of some sort that will keep costs down.

    For those of you blaming insurance companies on the cost of health care, quit being so ignorant. When did car insurance companies get blamed for the cost of purchasing a car?! Insurance companies operate on a 2 to 4 percent margin of your overall premium. That's it 2 to 4 percent! ... Insurance premiums are high because the cost of going to the doctor is high. Fix the reasons why it costs so much and only then will you fix unaffordable health care.

    August 16, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  11. Ask not what big business can do for you but what can you do for big business

    I love big insurance companies! Is there any way for me to transfer everything I own and then some into their custody so they can continue to do gods work. God bless those insurance executives! what would we do as a country without them! Amen!

    August 16, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  12. Tina

    Do an internet search for the recent health care offered by mobile charity Remote Area Medical in Inglewood, California. Thousands of uninsured and underinsured showed up for BASIC healthcare. They waited in their cars for hours and one of the organizers stated that he should be helping the people in a third world country, but instead he was here in the richest country in the world.

    I know the arguments of the right wing – they will say it was all the lazy people who want everything for free who went to the LA Forum. Overgeneralizations work very well with people willing to believe the worst of everything. That is what we have, the worst situation possible (people dying for profit and a good portion of the country unwilling to help because they believe it means less care FOR THEM) and people who believe the worst about everything.

    When did humanity die ?

    August 16, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  13. Carole

    So President Obama is letting a handful of Old crazy White loonies on Medicare that we should repeal, and politicians like Backus and Conrad getting health industry money determine this?

    August 16, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  14. Doug

    Her comments are part of the problem and not the solution. The Obama White House has cut deals behind the desk with every political and medical group in this issue. The President focused really on the stimulus first in his presentations and was remarkably silent on health care reforms. The politics is in the non-transparent mix. My President has thrown credability to the wind and will reap what he sows, anger and disregard.

    August 16, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  15. jules sand-perkins

    Stand in line at a US post office, close your eyes, and imagine having that kind of service in any aspect of your health care.

    August 16, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  16. Robert

    What makes Stu think people prefer this country over all the others that have decent and affordable health care for all citizens and legal residents? Another far-right paranoid myth. Hey, you guys have changed the old motto into "Give me liberty AND give me death". Pity, pity.

    August 16, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  17. Fred May Sr. Spanaway WA.

    Why not put every body drawing a paycheck on medicare. I pay $98.50 a month. Just imagine how much money would be available for the program. Changes could be made after the program is started. Since 1990 I have used Medicare and have had 2 serious ordeals. My total out of pocket expense has been less $3000 dollars. That is about $160 per year. I carry private insurance. I could drop the insurance and go strickly Medicare and pay 1/5 of the bill and save money. Open heart surgery was well over $11000. All the time spent arguing the medical care is a complete waste ot time and a lot of grand standing by the politicians in Washington DC. They are covered by government insurance. If and when Health care is passed how many will switch to public health care.

    August 16, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  18. BJC

    No Public Option! We need Health Care Reform but not a government takeover. For the 30 year old that states we need to quit listening to "Old Folks". Well 30 is old dear. Just ask a teen-ager and in case you forgot math, you are going up in age and not down. You will get older and older and older. People use to have respect for seniors or older adults. Just think when you get into your golden years you will have taught the younger ones to treat you like a piece of crap. Our seniors have worked hard ALL thier lives and they happen to be someone's parents, grandparent, brother or sister and they are loved. You sound like a very selfish 30 year old brat. Notice I did say Old brat?

    August 16, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  19. John

    People keep talking about the Democrats being in a hurry to pass this, but here is my question – why are the Republicans – even ones like Grassley who claim to be trying to work out a bipartisan solution – so inflexible? Grassley says he will oppose any bill that contains any public option, period. Is this how you negotiate a compromise? Why not say his support would depend on what a public option would look like? But no, he says my way or the highway. I say the highway, then – if the Dems in the Senate can come up with a parliamentary method to pass this with 51 votes and no Republicans, I say do it, since the Republicans do not appear to be negotiating seriously.

    If this passes, the public will see that nearly everything the opponents said about it (socialism, death panels, Medicare cuts, killing Grandma) was a complete lie, and the Democrats will prosper in future elections. If it fails, the Democrats will be seen as having broken their promises and/or having once again bungled an opportunity to fix the health care mess, and we could again be stuck with the Republicans for years. So I say pass it, by whatever legal means necessary.

    August 16, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  20. Ricky

    I'll regret having voted for Obama if he fails to get this legislation through when he has 60 Democrats in the senate.

    August 16, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  21. Peggy Toney

    Perhaps President Obama has forgotten that he was elected by democrats and promised health care reform. Now sitting on the most important committee re. health care reform are 3 democrats and 3 republicans. If we wanted what the Republicans offerred we would have kept G. Bush in office. Please, get more aggressive about the public option, or there will not be a 2nd term presidency. I heard this morning (Sunday, 8/8) that Obama is now considering NOT having a public option – How very disappointing for all of us who counted on Obama to carry thru.

    August 16, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  22. Ken

    Heath insurance costs are out of hand. Obamacare is not the answer! Maybe the goverment should change the systen to make health insurance companies non-profit. Why should the same procedures cost different amounts at different hospitals? Get ride ride of bogus lawsuits. Change malpractice laws to protect health care workers. Stop suing pharmicutical compaines for deaths caused from rare side affects that people unfortanately die from. Get ride of pre-exsisting heath problems as a reason to deny coverage! Insurance companies need to be held accountable and not make BILLIONS of the suffering off the heath of AMERICA!!!!

    August 16, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  23. HJA

    I laugh at all the Republinazis for all of their scare tactics. They just want to keep stuffing their pockets with insurance lobby money like the Blue Mongrel Democrats.We are rated 37th in quality of care and #1 as far as spending. Wall Street now controls our health care. Get rid of the fat cats and big $$ CEO's. Profiting on someone's health issues is obscene. Health care should be non-profit. And to correct the President, BCBS used to be non-profit. Not anymore.

    August 16, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  24. Steve-Illinois

    Mandatory car insurance was going to bring down the cost. After just a few years, every state that originally adopted mandatory liability insurance, paid the highest premiums in the country! There was no savings because everyone had to have it. Thinking that this created competition is nothing but hogwash! It merely forced the insurance companies to insure people that were of high risk. How can you insure a wrecked car, knowing the car owner will provide you with a repair bill from the body shop, immiediately upon being insured, for the same price as your customers whose cars are not wrecked? That's what covering pre-existing conditions amounts too! The working class, who actually pay taxes, will ultimately end up paying considerably more for health insurance than they do now. There's no way around it. The only way to pay for people that are already sick to have insurance is to charge the healthy people more!

    Common sense, not just for breakfast anymore!!

    August 16, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  25. Nuts

    Isn't Sebelius the woman that is OK with late term abortions?

    August 16, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
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