Is Public Option Off Obama's Table


President Obama wavered on his former stance on the public health insurance option on Saturday in Colorado when he said in a town hall meeting “that the public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of health care reform. This is just one sliver of it.”

The health care reform pie has been sliced and diced until it has ended up on the tables of Americans as a 1000-page plus mass of incomprehensible ingredients. The public option was once supposed to be an integral part of the reform package, and now it seems a substitute is in order.

When White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs was asked on the CBS program “Face the Nation” if Obama would accept a health care reform bill that did not include a public option, Gibbs said the president wants consumers to have better choices. “Do individuals looking for health insurance in the private market have choice and competition?” asked Gibbs. “If we have that, the president will be satisfied.”


Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius responded to the public option debate on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, saying that “There will be a competitor to private insurers. You don’t turn over the whole new marketplace to private insurance companies and trust them to do the right thing.”

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) thinks the right thing to replace the public option is health insurance cooperatives. During his appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” the senator said, “Look, the fact of the matter is there are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option. There never has been.” His alternative, public cooperatives, was an idea he pitched back in June 2009. Although it didn’t get a great deal of attention then, it may now.

The moderate Democrat’s health insurance cooperative idea may even get approval from Republicans. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said on “Fox News Sunday” that a public cooperative would be “a step in the right direction, away from a government takeover of our health care in this country.”

So the “sliver” of public option is likely off the table, and another ingredient, be it health insurance cooperatives or something else, will be thrown into the kitchen. Stay tuned. It won’t take long for the room to heat up.

ABC News 8/16/09
CNN 8/16/09