Liberals Seek to Prop Up Public Insurance Option
Signals from the White House that President Barack Obama is open to compromise on the public insurance option were met with resistance Monday from Congressional liberals and other Democrats.Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a statement reaffirming her support for the public insurance option as a part of comprehensive health care reform. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) made similar remarks.“As the president stated in March, The thinking on the public option has been that it gives consumers more choices and it helps keep the private sector honest because there’s some competition out there,’— Pelosi said in her statement. “We agree with the President that a public option will keep insurance companies honest and increase competition.—Pelosi added: “There is strong support in the House for a public option. In the House, all three of our bills contain a public option, as does the bill from the Senate [Health, Education, Labor and Pensions] Committee. A public option is the best option to lower costs, improve the quality of health care, ensure choice and expand coverage.—Feingold and Weiner offered similar refrains in attempting to bolster support for the public insurance option.“A public option is a fundamental part of ensuring health care reform brings about real change. Opposing the public plan is an endorsement of the status quo in this country that has left tens of millions of Americans uninsured or underinsured and put massive burdens on employers,— Feingold said in a prepared statement. “I am not interested in passing health care reform in name only. Without a public option, I don’t see how we will bring real change to a system that has made good health care a privilege for those who can afford it.— Weiner said in a prepared statement: “Leaving private insurance companies the job of controlling the costs of healthcare is like making a pyromaniac the fire chief.—Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the weekend said Obama is open to supporting a nonprofit medical cooperative instead of a public insurance option. Health care reform bills passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate HELP Committee include public insurance components. But the near-unanimous opposition to a public insurance option by Republicans — combined with the resistance of many moderate and conservative Democrats — put in doubt Congress’ ability to approve a package that includes such a proposal. But liberal Democrats were forceful Monday in defending the need to implement a public insurance option as part of health care reform.Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who is also the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said the Obama administration should not back away from its support of the public insurance option.A nonprofit medical cooperative being negotiated in the Senate Finance Committee holds open the possibility that a compromise on the issue might be possible. The public insurance option and the co-op are intended to function as alternatives to private insurers.However, the public insurance option would be government-run. The initial board members of the co-op would be appointed by the federal government, and the entity would receive seed money from Washington, D.C., with the intention that it would eventually be free of any government influence.The co-op was first proposed by moderate Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.).