September 9th, 2009
08:52 PM ET
11 years ago

Obama defends public option, but says he's open to alternatives

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption ="Obama defends public option, but says he's open to alternatives."]

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday defended his proposal for government-run public health insurance as an option for consumers, saying it would force private insurers lower costs.

But Obama, in a speech to a joint session of Congress, called the provision one alternative for increasing competition for health insurance and signaled his openness to alternatives.

"I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice," he said, without specifying the public option. "And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need."

Republicans are unanimous in opposing a public option, calling it an unfair competitor that would drive private insurers from the market and lead to a government takeover of health insurance. Obama rejected that claim as a false allegation intended to scare people.

"Let me be clear - it would only be an option for those who don't have insurance," he said. "No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5 percent of Americans would sign up."

Obama called for a reasonable approach from both liberal Democrats who demand a public option and Republicans and some moderate Democrats who oppose the provision.

"To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it," he said. "The public option is only a means to that end – and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal.

"And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have."

Filed under: Health care • President Obama
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. eolufemi

    Great job. Mr. President.

    September 9, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  2. Idiot_Pelosi

    Who is going to pay for Hillary's nose job?

    Who is going to pay for Waxman's Gender change?

    Who is going to pay for Pelosi's Botox treatments?

    Who is going to pay for Frank's tummy tuck?

    September 9, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  3. chris Gorman

    "And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.".... President Obama

    Best line ever! Never gonna happen but still the best line ever!

    September 9, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  4. Mike Allen

    What a fantastic address the President delivered. One for the history books. What kind of an ignorant fool could not hear the truth the President spoke tonight? And what kind of a corrupt shallow person could oppose this proposed health care reform? GOD bless America and GOD bless our fine President.

    September 9, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  5. Cindy

    Republicans reject the Public Option because their Insurance lobbyist friends are schmoozing them.

    And, if Government is so bad at doing it, wouldn't people go to private anyway? So what's their problem with it? There's no competion, right?

    Give the people the option! Don't be afraid!

    September 9, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  6. jkm

    Since he has not said exactly how we are going to pay for this monster. How about we take back the "de-stimulus" package money and use that to try to fund healthcare. The de-stimulus package is not working anyway.

    Just a thought

    September 9, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  7. Susan

    Obama should open insurance competition to all 50 states and bring costs down with competition instead he clings to a government option when his own government has failed to create the 4 million jobs he promised when passing the trillion dollar deficit.

    Instead of small changes, including tort reform, Obama wants a massive overhaul.

    September 9, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  8. Shawn - GA

    So finally he is ready to work with everyone!!! and taking public option off the table!!

    About time!! call us all the names you want, we are making an impact and things are starting to improve!

    September 9, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  9. mayday

    just like you never assisted in helping ACORN, barry, you're dropping in the polls, no one likes you anymore, take a hint. its obvious it doesn't take much to get a law degree these days.

    September 9, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  10. A.B.

    President Obama gave an excellent speech, skillfully set the record straight on his position on healthcare reform and he held on to the public option for keeping private insurance companies honest. I am confident that we will have a health reform bill signed into law before the end of this year. There should be no doubt as to where President Obama stands this issue now. All Americans should get on band wagon and support the President's plan.

    September 9, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  11. m jeff

    No more stall tactics from the Republicans or the insurance companies. Reform will move forward with or without you.

    September 9, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  12. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Some people just can't afford healthcare. In some places across the country their are Care-A- Vans that treat the uninsured. Plus it's non-profit.

    September 9, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  13. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    Can somebody please explain to me why a politician who is for AMNESTY for illegal aliens would not ALSO be for GOVERNMENT HEALTHCARE FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS?


    September 9, 2009 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  14. T'SAH from Virginia

    A Public Option would be implemented because the REPUBLI-CAN'Ts are not going to come up with something better that everyone can agree on. They will continue to cause chaos and incite the public with more lies... It's their nature!!!

    September 9, 2009 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  15. J.C. - Independent & Insured

    The Public Option is a self-sustaining government-run health insurance plan. It doesn't mean subsidies for the poor. Instead, the Public Plan will provide insurance for the Middle Class who make more than the Medicaid qualifying income. It can also help the Poor get better paid jobs and move out of Medicaid, which is not self-sustaining.

    President Obama is correct that his health care plan will NOT add even a dime to our deficit. But to make it possible, we will need the Public Plan in the Exchange.

    September 9, 2009 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  16. lilalove

    He also said only people with no health insurance could buy into the public option. That would pretty much make it impossible for corperate switch over for it's employees.

    BTW, I thought it was his best speech ever. At the end.. it was so honest, so real.. so true. It was truth. I heard truth. His eye contact was so powerful, the way he looked at those that had been false.. right in the eye.
    He is a true leader.

    September 9, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  17. Danny J

    Talk about a muddled message! When your try to offer something for everyone, you offer nothing.

    September 9, 2009 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  18. stacyanne

    The Presidents speech gave my family and l a new hope for our future. At last, at last we will be able to hold our heads high and be able to afford heathcare, we will hopefully be able to get a checkup that we much need, and stop using home remedies to maitain our health. l pray the american people may not be so ignorant and bullied by scare tactics, that finally congress may hear my families cry and vote for this plan, this is a step towards the future and if a third world country can offer better health care to its people why cant the United States of America.

    September 9, 2009 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  19. AJ

    Basically, Obama has given up the public option in order to appease Republicans and help enrich the insurance industry What a fraud.

    September 9, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  20. jts

    Is anyone surprised that a middle aged white guy from the south thinks its okay to yell and call the first AA POTUS a liar during a world wide televised address to Congress? Why do people continue to suggest that there is no element of racism at the base of the criticisms and opposition of Pres. Obama? Wilson's hate so overwhelmed him that he could not contain himself. So sad.

    September 9, 2009 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  21. ED

    He's open to alternatives as long as they fit into his plan.

    This public (government) option will hopefully run with less administrative costs, it will definitely have tax advantages over a profit healthcare company resulting in lower premiums. Thus, the public option will attract business to enroll in it and their employees only option will be public healthcare. Eventually, the public option will become more expensive over time with fraud and abuse just like Medicare, that's when the public option will start putting limits on healthcare.

    September 9, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  22. janelle

    If the whole point of public option is to provide competition as a means to bring down costs, then why not just pass legislation that will eliminate restrictions of buying health insurance across state lines. The example given of Alabama, where 90 percent of policies are from one company. If other companies were allowed to sell policies in Alabama, there is your competition and thus lower costs. And, it wouldn't cost the taxpayers 1 trillion dollars! Common sense PLEASE!!!

    September 9, 2009 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  23. Reform begins with Public Option

    Reform begins with Public option

    anything else is just shell game politics.

    September 9, 2009 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  24. ondeck

    Congress loves their public option health care, why shouldn't we have the opportunity. We make 38,000 a year and Blue Cross upped our premium to 22,000 a year – you do the math- please don't back down Mr. President, we need help.

    September 9, 2009 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  25. Kent in CA

    Without a public option, the insurance companies will have no incentive to do what is right. Do not let these greedy corporations manipulate you!

    September 9, 2009 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
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