President Barack Obama spoke forcefully in favor of the inclusion of a public health insurance plan as part of healthcare reform, but he refused to say whether such a plan would be nonnegotiable as he pushes Congress to deliver a bill to his desk this summer.
During a briefing at the White House today, Obama ignored the question the first time it was asked, and when another reporter repeated it, he responded, Right now, I will say that our position is: A public option makes sense.
Obama dismissed fears expressed by the health insurance industry and some lawmakers, including some in his own party, that a government-run plan would drive private insurers out of business. That defies logic, Obama said. If they tell us they are offering a good deal (to consumers), and when they say the government cant run anything, why would it drive them out of business? Obama asked.
The question referred to a June 19 letter from Americas Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association to Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), one of the leaders of reform efforts on the Hill, which argued that a public plan would have devastating consequences on the health insurance coverage that employers and individuals currently have.