One of the most ardent opponents of including a new public health insurance plan in health reform legislation has been Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who in the past has said that she opposes a public option because it would “[undermine] the essence of [Senate] efforts to create a real market-based private sector model.”
Yesterday, MSNBC host host Tamron Hall confronted Landrieu over her opposition to the public option in light of its enormous popularity across the country. Landrieu responded to Hall’s questioning by saying that the reason most people want a public option is because “everybody wants free health care”:
HALL: Do you believe in the polling that says the American people want a public option? Do you believe in that desire from the folks that you and all of the others represent who say that they would like a public option to help offset these costs?
LANDRIEU: I think when people hear “public option” they hear “free health care.” Everybody wants free health care. Everybody wants health care they don’t have to pay for. The problem is, is that we in governments and business have to pick up the tab and as individuals. So I’m not at all surprised that the public option’s been sold as free health care. But there is no free lunch.
Of course, the public option hasn’t been crafted as “free health care.” As the President explained during his health care speech last month, the public option as it is being constructed in Congress will “have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects.” What likely makes the public option so popular, however, is the fact that it won’t have to worry about, as the President also explained, “profits and excessive administrative costs and executive salaries,” which would make it reliable and a “good deal for consumers.”
As the organization Change Congress notes, Landrieu has received more than $1.6 million from health and insurance interests in recent years. While she continues to claim that Americans want a public option only because they’re misinformed, her constituents would benefit tremendously from the choice of a public plan. As of 2008, nearly one in five Louisianans were uninsured.