President Reiterates Support for Public Option in Health Reform
On Tuesday, President Obama reiterated his support of including a public health plan option in reform legislation after White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said the administration would be open to a compromise on the provision, Reuters/Boston Globe reports (Whitsides, Reuters/Boston Globe, 7/7).
The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported that Emanuel indicated the Obama administration would support legislation that included a trigger mechanism that would create a public health insurance option only if the private health insurance market failed to provide sufficient competition (California Healthline, 7/7).
In the statement, Obama said, "I am pleased by the progress we're making on health care reform and still believe, as I've said before, that one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices, and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest" (Stolberg, "The Caucus," New York Times, 7/7).
The president added that he looks "forward to a final product that achieves these very important goals" (Simmons, HealthLeaders Media, 7/7). Â
On Tuesday night, Emanuel met with House Democrats to reassure them that Obama strongly supports a public option.
During the meeting, Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) warned Emanuel that he would lose the caucus's votes if the Obama administration compromised on the public option and included a "trigger" that could delay the implementation of a public plan (Dennis, Roll Call, 7/7).
In a letter to Obama on Tuesday, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, wrote that he read with "alarm and dismay" Emanuel's comments. He wrote, "I want to be crystal clear that any such trigger for a strong public plan option is a non-starter with a majority of the members of the Progressive Caucus," adding, "Moreover, I consider it unacceptable for any of the cost savings that you are negotiating with hospitals and other sectors of the health care industry to be made contingent upon a robust public plan option not being included in the final legislation" (Bendery, Roll Call, 7/7).
In a statement on Tuesday, Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), chair of the Blue Dog Health Care Task Force, said, "A proven effective method of increasing competition and choice in the marketplace is to require that private industry adopt reforms in order to meet specific availability and cost targets," adding, "Failure to meet these goals would then trigger a public option that would compete on a level playing field" (Dennis/Koffler, Roll Call, 7/8).
Liberal advocacy groups also responded to Emanuel's comment (Young, The Hill, 7/7).
In an e-mail to supporters, MoveOn.org wrote, "Right now, when key committees are finalizing health care legislation, Emanuel's remarks will only embolden conservative opponents of reform," adding, "He should be standing with the majority of Americans for a strong public health insurance option -- not disastrous half-measures like the 'trigger.'"Health Care for America Now spokesperson Jacki Schechner said, "President Obama has been very consistent about his support for a public insurance option," adding that her group is strongly opposed to a trigger. She said of the public option, "It has to be national and (in effect) on day one" (Roll Call, 7/8). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.