White House not Ready to Forfeit Public Option

Naftali Bendavid, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, gave an important update to health care reform earlier today.  Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, caused some uproar amongst Democrats on Sunday when she said that a public option is not the “essential element” to health care reform.

In a Q-and-A email sent out to members of Congress on Monday, the White House said “nothing has changed” in regards to the plans of including a public option into the final health care reform bill.  President Obama is still convinced that the best way to reform the system is to lower costs and increase competition; he believes a public option will achieve these goals. 

Ironically, two groups have formed due to the White House’s latest indications that it is backing away from a public option: liberal activists, who say they would never support a reform bill without a public option, and moderates, who say the government option will lead to complete government control of the system.  The White House is trying to appease both groups. 

Even if the public plan is dropped altogether, Republicans and moderates are still wary of the rest of the provisions in the bill.  Specifically, they are worried that the estimated cost of $1 trillion over 10 years is too much to put on the American people in a down economy.  Some experts believe these estimates, must like original estimates for Medicare, are inaccurate, and this kind of reform will end up costing a lot more. 

One House Republican leadership aide said, “It doesn’t make a difference to us [if the public plan is dropped].  This plan is so bad that changing this one particular provision is not going to fix it.”

Currently, three committees in the House have completed different versions of HR 3200.  All three of them include the controversial public option.  The Senate, however, is still working on its version.  The Senate Finance committee is trying to churn out their ‘bipartisan’ bill, which will certainly not include the public plan. 

Michael Mahaffey, spokesman for Senate Finance Committee member Mike Enzi (R-WY) said, “The government-run plan does not have the votes to pass in the Senate, it never has.” 

So while Sen. Enzi is pleased to see the White House backing away from its insistence on including a government-run plan, the fact is this doesn’t change the dynamic in the Senate very much”. 

To read the entire Wall Street Journal article, click here: White House Reassures Allies