September 4th, 2009
05:53 PM ET
13 years ago

House liberals tell Obama public option is 'essential'

[cnn-photo-caption image=
caption="Some of the most liberal members of the House say they won't vote for a bill without a government-run insurance option."]

WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Obama prepares to go before Congress and lay out more details about his stance on health reform, he held a conference call Friday with some of the most liberal members of the House, who say they won't vote for a bill without a government-run insurance option.

Two congresswomen on the call, which took place Friday afternoon, tell CNN that the president probed them about how entrenched they are, even asking them to define what they mean when they call for a "robust" public option.

"I think he would like to convince us that there is something short of that could lead to a public option that would satisfy us, and guess what? It doesn't," Rep. Lynne Woolsey, D-California, told CNN in a telephone interview after the conference call.

Woolsey, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, insisted that the president did not explicitly warn them that he may have to give up a so-called public option in order to pass a bill through the more moderate Senate, but it seemed he was laying the groundwork.

"He has to decide where that line has to be drawn and he knows we have to decide where the line can be drawn," said Woolsey.

The conference call included leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Another Democratic source familiar with the call said the president did made clear it will be hard to pass a public option out of Congress because of deep opposition from moderates, and talked about what's most important to him - market reforms that force more competition, lower costs for health care, and expanded coverage for the uninsured.

But both Woolsey and Rep Barbara Lee, D-California, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told CNN that they told the president point blank that they do not believe a health care proposal without a government-run option is real reform.

"All of our caucuses are very unified about a robust public option, and that is essential in healthcare reform efforts," Lee told CNN in a separate phone interview after the conference call.

"Because the cost to those who have insurance, which is 85 percent of the public - they want to make sure that they keep their coverage that they have choice but that their premiums come down. And we communicated this very clearly to the president. The only way that that can happen for those are already insured is to have a robust public option, " she said.

Lee said she answered the president's question about what a robust option means by saying it should be crafted along the lines of Medicare for senior citizens.

Woolsey and Lee said the president invited them to the White House to continue the discussion on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, before his speech to Congress.

Filed under: Health care
soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. Winkzilla, Tucson

    Capitalism is good, except when it devours its own citizens. Our moral guidance has been reduced to economics. The false-reality of religions has transformed themselves into carnival barkers on television. Our universities bubble up old unaccountable reason and rational thought, as they only perpetuate themselves. Atheists mock the false-reality of religions but have nothing of their own to offer.

    We have fired our religion and universities. We now go to television and internet for our moral guidance. Capitalism has used the United States to its end, and now they know nothing else except to go world wide, and to push wealth upward here in the States. They know how to transform, through marketing, our human thought systems, and our evaluations of what is right and what is wrong, to serve themselves. When the word public is a bad word, we have become the coercive animal.

    September 4, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  2. bess

    why does everyone keep using the euphamism "public option" instead of the correct title "Government Run"? Oh, wait. Yah, that's why.

    September 4, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  3. Julie

    It's called a public "option", which means you are free to choose this form of insurance if it meets your needs. Freedom of choice. I don't have that where I work now, only 1 insurance company to "choose" from, take it or leave it style. To say that private insurance can't compete is really doing a major disservice to our smart business community which I'm sure will find a way to keep up their profits. None of them have plans for giving up and going out of business. They'll have to compete..........oh yeah, free market captialism at its best. Final word is I want the opportunity to choose the plan that best suits my needs not a corporate bottom line, executive compensation package, or shareholders returns of a health insurance company.

    September 4, 2009 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    There is no real reform WITHOUT a public option.

    There MUST be a PUBLIC OPTION - no triggers, no more waiting!

    September 4, 2009 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  5. Nothing 'Stand Up' about Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)

    A public option will reduce excessive costs, waste and abuses. It's obviously a minimum requirement for real health care reform.

    Other than the reckless right shouting louder and touting guns at political events, there really doesn't seem to be a very good counterargument.

    At best, the tools believe they're protecting freedom by opposing a public option, though all they're really defending are greedy executives' rights to make out like bandits from all those corporate profits.

    Bottom line, we'll get something like the public option now, BEFORE THE SYSTEM IS TOTALLY BROKEN, or we'll have to get some kind of single-payer, universal health care insurance later, AFTER THE GREED HAS PUSHED THE SYSTEM OVER THE CLIFF.

    (And any one of those frauds who says that anything more than a trigger for a public option is impossible knows that the system is breaking. They just lack the courage to go against the special interests and create what would quickly become one of the most popular programs in US history.)

    September 4, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  6. T'SAH from Virginia

    The PUBLIC OPTION is important in this bill ONLY because the PARTY OF NO does not want it!!!

    We – the democrats of America – need to STOP allowing the Party of NO rule us – just like the Iraq war – the democrats gave in and should not have!!!

    The public option is necessary in this bill because I want to switch from my current insurance to an option that FITS my pocket MORE!!! Medical cost is outrageous and the insurance companies are ripping us off!!!

    September 4, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  7. Jane/Seattle

    Could it be that Democrats are finally getting a Backbone? Is all the HOPE we have invested gonna pay off for We The People? OR will we get the incremental compromise that will continue to reward the HMO's and other players? Will the final bill be so watered down that nothing will change? Will that a clause to punish us (with a 2.5% tax penalty) for not having healthcare be in or out? What income level will be set to subsidize those of us who are working poor or middle class? Or will they set the Threshold so high, burt just low enough to keep hurting us more? We better tell them about how we will vote if they ignore our will for our suffering brothers and sisters! And that may just be for a moral alternative like Dennis Kucinich or Bernie Sanders among others who take their oaths seriously. Campaign finance reform is the first order of business. Send all the 30,000 lobbyists home from DC and bring the long suffering folks from Katrina to live in the House of the American people. Can anyone hear my cry out for REAL Change? Please listen. We are begging you to save the children, to save us all.

    September 4, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  8. Ben

    My vote and sizable political donation in 2010 and 2012 is riding on a public option. Put it in, or lose me.

    September 4, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  9. Angi's mom

    President Obama: A public option IS essential. My two children are recent college graduates. One is an intern without a salary and uninsured. The other is employed but whose employer does not offer health insurance. My insurance company dropped their coverage when they reached age 23, even though I'm still paying the same amount. The children looked into private health programs, but couldn't afford it. I am outraged when I read blogs saying that this nation is doing just fine under the current insurance system, that the govt should not get involved, that Americans are unhealthy because they're obese. I worry what will happen if my children break their spine, get hit by a truck, or get cancer. Many young people join the military, and not because they are necessarily patriotic or they like combat, but because at least they have a job and they have health care...and yes, it is socialized health care that works. And prisons take very good care of their guests too. American deserve better.

    September 4, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  10. Pa independent but fiscally responsible

    Socialism does not equal progress. All you have to do is look to the devastating effects the cost of the health care has in France and Germany with a much smaller population.

    September 4, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  11. The Lady

    President has a dear suported of yours who campaigned for you because of issues like this please, please have a public option. This is about what the people want not some competion between parties.

    September 4, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  12. Jane

    Why would anyone want any health care plan in which the members of congress and president refuse to be a part of? Shouldn't they be required to participate in this program as well. Anytime the "leaders" say something is "good for the people" but we get another program, a red flag should immediately ascend and we the people need to speak out for our rights!!!

    September 4, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  13. Ryan, Council Bluffs

    Wake Up People! You are Democrats you follow the polls! The polls show that HillaryCare was more popular than ObamaCare! And we all know how that went.

    Government run anything is not a good option. Medicare, Social Security, the Post Office...

    Let's take out some of the anti-competive regulations on insurers. Let them compete across state lines. Let them form more independent pools. Let them offer catastrophic health coverage. None of which are permitted by law now.

    September 4, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  14. Working together.

    President Obama has always wanted a public option, and he told congress he wanted that in the bill when congress put together their draft.

    They are on the SAME PAGE.

    September 4, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  15. Hotelier

    How about people figure out what the largest health problems in the country are, then pool the money to get the lowest costs out there and fix those problems. Stop it with all these different pills people are taking these days. How different rules for different things. For instance: I would have no problems with helping a child or adult or elderly man or woman with a condition that happens to them beyond their control. I say help these people and stop being such a wicked person while you are at it. For all those people who are overweight, or heavy smokers, or never do any exercise I mean cut out those things to make yourself healty. Don't expect your neighbors to float that bill. I would pay for self help classes and things like that to get people to be healthy, but not a drug, no way. How sick can this country possibly be ANYWAYS??? I mean, it is billions upon billions of dollars to make people what we call well. That is the problem. Somebody must be getting away with something in all that bottomless money. Peace.

    September 4, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  16. diane08

    Isn't it interesting how republicans, who pride themselves on being on the side of small town, middle America, is all of a sudden so sympathetic to the big monster insurance companies who have been ripping those same people off for years. These small town middle Americans need to stop and ask themselves what their party leaders have to gain by keeping these companies profitable. ($$$$)

    People who have been paying insurance premiums for YEARS, only to find out their money paid for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!! These thugs (insurance co's) find any way they can to keep from having to pay for anything, pocketing your money while you're on your death bed. And these are the same morally corrupt people that are expected to reform themselves?

    We see how well that worked for the banks!!!!

    September 4, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  17. Farrell in Houston

    The insurance lobbyist are running this healthcare show. You've been punked.

    September 4, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  18. Chris

    Hey republicans, unlike your party who gave President Bush the green light on everything, democrats don't let our President off the hook. All you ideological zealots on the right bent over and agreed with whatever the republican leadership told you to believe. Why did republican politicians bow down to the Bush administration for eight years?

    September 4, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  19. annie against biased news

    house liberals should take obama, jones and all the czars, emanuel, holder, pelosi, reid, frank, etc and go live in the additional 7 states obama thinks we have.

    September 4, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  20. vic nashville , Tn

    Past 3 weeks some organizations detour the debate

    Obama please step do what you promise in the campaign

    September 4, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  21. HonestMistake

    Until you define low cost option in monthly premium amounts, it means nothing. I pay $250 a month for my private insurance with HealthNet. Will the public option cost less than that? I doubt it.

    September 4, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  22. Hugo

    Essential to destroy what is left of our country! Tort reform, insurance regulation and correct the current dysfunctional government run programs that are ripe with fraudulent catastrophies! That might be a good start for the government to do instead of allowing millions of illegals to stay in our country, burden the people with a deficit the likes of which no country on earth has ever seen and covertly strip American citizens of our freedoms! This is a systematic agenda of destruction of our Nation, wake up America!

    September 4, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  23. Jerry in NC

    Why are so many of you afraid of a public option??? Could it be that you may have to pay more taxes??? I hear and read all this talk about higher taxes and government deficits....didn't hear all of you screaming about these things the past 8 years! It didn't matter to you that lives were being lost in a war that was secretly funded by borrowing from China. It didn't matter that unemployment was rising like a flooding river. It didn't matter that people were losing their homes and due to no health care, their lives. Oh no! Because you "HAVES" were too busy puttering back and forth to your high paying jobs in your high priced cars. Coming home each night to your high priced home eating only the best cuisine. The problems of the less fortunate never matter at all to you.....until some tells you that you may have to pay what you should have paid for years, so that someone less fortunate than you may receive much needed medical care, education, a slightly better quality of life. You greedy, selfish, disgusting people have the audacity to call yourselves AMERICANS!???????

    September 4, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  24. Wolf twitters 4 Palin

    Good... It is time someone stood up to these right wing liars and fear mongers. Nothing will satisfy them except a failed Obama presidency. I am in my sixties and have never seen anything that closely approaches the venom of this crowd.

    September 4, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  25. Louise in CA

    This hysteria over health-care reform is ridiculous. What is wrong with providing affordable health care for all Americans? Have we become such an uneducated, ignorant nation that we confuse words for reality? Since when did the Constitution or any other document express that capitalism, private gain at the expense of others, and greed are essential ingredients for democracy? Since when have words like "socialism" become so scary that so-called educated people get hysterical and become knee-jerking idiots when agenda-driven politicians impede the will of the people? Think, people! Stop being sheep.

    September 4, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
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