House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he would vote for comprehensive healthcare reform even if it fails to contain a public insurance option. “I believe the public option is a choice, an alternative,” Hoyer told reporters. “It would enhance competition, bring prices down and give people more choices” on coverage.
The America's Affordable Health Choices Act is poised for a vote by the full House chamber, once differences are resolved between three separate versions of the bill that were approved before Congress broke for the August recess. “It's a good addition to the bill, but I would still support a bill without it,” Hoyer said of the public option. Currently, the bill contains a number of key provisions, such as expanding access to coverage and applying broad insurance reforms, such as limiting exclusions for pre-existing conditions, he said.
Regarding reports that Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), chairman of the Blue Dog Health Care Task Force and a crucial player in the House healthcare debate, was backing away from the public option, Hoyer said his party would “try to come to agreement” on something that everyone could support. He also commented on President Barack Obama's Wednesday address to Congress, saying he expects Obama to reinforce what he wants to accomplish on healthcare reform.
There is no specific timeline for the House to consider the bill, Hoyer said, adding, “We don't have a policy of waiting for the Senate to act first.”