White House Hedging Bets On Public Option In Health Bills
The Associated Press "The White House is waiting for Congress to settle on a final health care bill, even though President Barack Obama has a clear preference in favor of at least one specific - the much-debated public option, advisers said. Obama, however, will not demand that legislation include a government-run insurance plan intended to drive down costs through competition with private insurers, they said."
"Instead, the White House will let Congress work out the details required to get something passed. 'There will be compromise. There will be legislation, and it will achieve our goals: helping people who have insurance get more security, more accountability for the insurance industry, helping people who don't have insurance get insurance they can afford, and lowering the overall cost of the system,' presidential adviser David Axelrod said" on ABC's This Week (Hurst, 10/19).
The Associated Press/The Boston Globe in a second story reports that senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said she thinks Obama believes the public plan is still the "best possible choice," but that he's not demanding it. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel made similar remarks saying it's not the defining piece of health care reform (10/19).
Emanuel also defended the so-called "Cadillac" plan tax as "one of the most effective ways to put downward pressure on insurance premiums," CongressDaily reports (Hunt, 10/18).
The Washington Post: "Liberal lawmakers such as Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), who is involved in the (Senate) negotiations, said they will push for the government option to be included in the bill that goes to the Senate floor. 'I haven't given up on this,' Dodd said on NBC" (Connolly, 10/19).
Roll Call: "But National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) appearing on CBS, continued to bemoan the lack of a bipartisan process in crafting the health care reform proposals, reiterating that Republicans have been largely shut out of the process" (Toeplitz, 10/18).
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that "On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) said he could support a public option that doesn't tie reimbursement rates - what the government would pay health-care providers for procedures - to existing Medicare reimbursement rates. North Dakota has relatively low Medicare reimbursement rates." Conrad favors cooperatives (McKinnon, 10/18).
CQ Politics quotes Sen. John Thune , R-S.D., on Fox News Sunday: "I think the Democrats clearly want the public option. They want to call it something else. They want to label it. They want to call it a trigger, a state option or co-op. But it's still a government plan" (Silvassy, 10/18).
Politico reports on Obama's weekly address: "President Barack Obama took what may be his hardest shots yet at the health insurance industry, stating that while a health-care reform bill is close to passage, opponents are trying to 'marshal their forces for one last fight to save the status quo' and are running 'deceptive and dishonest ads' - and suggested insurers' could lose their anti-trust exemption if they continued to attack the plan" (Henderson, 10/17).
Finally, The Chicago Tribune looks at Obama's top White House officials who are busy tying themselves to the process of passing reform: "Months ago, when President Barack Obama made health care his top domestic priority and picked the White House team to make it happen, he selected individuals for just this moment -- not for the beginning or the middle of the campaign, but for the end of the fight" (Nicholas, 10/18).
Kaiser Health News has more summaries of the public plan discussions featured by the Sunday news talk shows.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.