White House Offers Reassurance That Public Option Is Very Much AliveThe Wall Street Journal: "The White House sent an email to members of Congress and other supporters saying that President Barack Obama wants a public insurance option as part of health-care overhaul. Ms. Sebelius seemed to suggest otherwise on Sunday, saying a public option isn't an 'essential element.'"
"The flap illustrates the difficulty of communicating Mr. Obama's position on a public option - he believes it is the best way to lower costs and increase coverage, but he is also open to alternatives. That message is designed to appease two constituencies. Liberal activists say they will oppose any overhaul without a public option, while moderates worry it will pave the way for a government-run health system. The White House is trying to keep both factions at the table" (Bendavid, 8/18).
A video analysis from The Wall Street Journal: "It's long been thought that the White House wouldn't ultimately insist on the public option, but it's interesting that they chose to make that announcement in a very conscious way on the Sunday talk shows while Congress is in recess and while everyone is back home in August." One message: The White House is trying to do everything it can to accommodate Republican concerns (Bendavid, 8/17).
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that Obama's support for a public plan remains, The Hill reports: "Administration officials have been careful from the beginning of the healthcare debate to avoid taking hard-line public positions on some of the more controversial aspects of the proposals on Capitol Hill. That said, Republicans and Democrats for the most part read the weekend's news as indicating the administration was moving away from its support for the public plan to gain support for healthcare reform from centrists, particularly in the Senate" (Youngman, 8/17).
At the same time, the Los Angeles Times reports that Obama is improving the odds of passing "far-reaching" healthcare legislation: "Moderate Democratic lawmakers are now more likely to back other parts of the evolving legislation, such as prohibiting insurers from denying coverage because of preexisting conditions or cutting off benefits to ill policy-holders, as well as making it easier for small businesses to cover workers." But the White House also "appeared to be making a calculation that liberals would go along with the legislation even if it lacked a provision they deemed indispensable. The White House expressed Obama's position in calibrated language, making clear that though he preferred to include a government-run healthcare plan in legislation, its absence would not be a deal-breaker" (Nicholas and Hook, 8/18). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.