Administration shifts on public health option

By Ian Swanson
Posted: 08/16/09 02:08 PM [ET]


The first casualty of the August healthcare debate increasingly looks to be the public health insurance option prized by liberals.  Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Sunday said it is not “essential” that a public option be in legislation, while White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, speaking on a different Sunday morning talk show, stopped far short of insisting on a public plan.  “What the president has said is in order to inject choice and competition … people ought to be able to have some competition in that market,” Gibbs said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”   Asked if he was hedging on support for a public plan, Gibbs said, “The president has thus far sided with the notion that that can best be done with a public option.”  The shift comes as a series of town hall debates takes place across the nation. Democratic plans for healthcare reform, including a public health insurance option, have come under fire at those meetings from people worried about a government takeover of healthcare.   Criticisms that a government-run insurance plan would be costly and would drive private insurers out of business have become common place at the events.    President Barack Obama himself on Saturday suggested he won’t insist on a public option.   “The public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of healthcare reform,” Obama said at a town hall event in Colorado. “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.”


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