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. Conservative

    I really wish President Obama would stop the charade of bipartisanship. He and the democrats are no worse for doing this than when the republicans had control of the house and senate, but they are no better. Bush used a crisis to get things passed that he wouldn't have otherwise. He exploited a situation and Obama is doing the same thing with both the massive stimulus package and healthcare. While he may compromise on a few things and throw in a token tort reform section to make it look bipartisan, it will be for nothing more than the chance to call it his bipartisan healthcare reform. While I wish he would actually work for a solution, I can't see one coming. So more than anything, I just wish he would stop pretending we are too stupid to see that he and the democratic leadership in congress have no intention of backing down from their demands. Maybe they shouldn't, but at least be honest.

    September 9, 2009 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  2. DEBBInola

    I dont understand this, if all these POLITICIANS are really for getting all AMERICANS healthcare as they all say they are, this would be a moot point completely......
    The INSURANCE COMPANIES have monopolies in some states and if not total monopolies then very close ........
    With the PUBLIC OPTION , it would give people CHOICE , and bring the INSURANCE COMPANIES something they need to help lower costs , competition .................

    September 9, 2009 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  3. Nea

    I think the President need to be open to alternatives instead of doing what some want my way or the high way, thats not the way to get anything done. As far as im concerned i just want them to get a good bill through,whether it be by-partisan or not.

    September 10, 2009 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  4. jun bolayog

    Both parties will continue to sing the "bipartisan" tune so Americans will see their elected representatives to be reasonable people. But health care reform is heavily politicized where big campaign fund donors and lobbyists are passionately involved.

    Republicans wont get aboard because it is politically stupid to hand Obama his victory on a silver platter. They'd rather give him his waterloo and break him. The Democrats wont give in either because they're voted in to reform an unsustainable health care system in America.

    This is where the President should lead and the Democratic party unite.

    September 10, 2009 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  5. jules sand-perkins

    The alternative to the public option is not to have the public option.
    A public option is not reform; it is just more wine and circuses to buy votes at election time.

    September 10, 2009 05:54 am at 5:54 am |
  6. jules sand-perkins

    Another way to state the alternative to the public option is no.
    Just say no.

    September 10, 2009 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
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