In an emailed statement to Bloomberg News, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she’s open to the idea of dropping a public health insurance option in favor of a medical-insurance cooperative. “You could theoretically design a co-op plan that had the same attributes as a public plan,” Sebelius said.
The leading co-op proposal in the Senate, offered by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), does not share the attributes of a public plan. Instead, Conrad’s proposal would create multiple state or regional non-profits as a competitor to the private insurance market. As Howard Dean has said of this plan: “The co-ops are too small to compete with the big, private insurance companies. They will kill the co-ops completely by undercutting them, using their financial clout to do it.”
Bloomberg’s Al Hunt asked Sebelius, “[If] you’re willing to compromise on your notion of a public plan…what’s non-negotiable?” Sebelius responded that the final bill has to “have a comprehensive approach that lowers costs. That’s non-negotiable.” She added reform also “needs to provide coverage for everyone.” Watch it:
This isn’t the time to compromise on core health care reform principles. As CAP fellow Ruy Teixeira notes, “Right now support is running high for the public option.”
Matt Yglesias adds that the public option is uniquely important because, if implement, it is likely “become an enduring feature of the landscape that’s unlikely to vanish.” While other progressive health insurance reforms can be enacted in the future, Yglesias argues, “for the public option, it’s probably now or never.”
The New York Times reports that there’s little hope for Obama in gaining Republican support. Asked how many Senate Republicans could sign on to developing Democratic plans, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), author of a Republican alternative, said: “I think right now, none. Zero.”
,On Fox News, Sebelius defended the public plan, arguing there’s nothing about it that would “ration care.” “Unfortunately, care is being rationed each and everyday right now. Often private insurance companies stand between a patient and a doctor deciding what treatment can be provided,” she said.
,Igor Volsky reports that Tom Daschle defended the public plan, arguing, “I can’t think of a tool that more effectively controls costs than a public option. I mean every study that has been done on a public option shows what remarkable cost savings you can derive.”