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Obama Renews Call for Public Option in Health Law to Compete With Private Insurers

| July 11, 2016

Not lacking for ideas. Only allies. (White House)

Not lacking for ideas. Only allies. (White House)

President Barack Obama Monday called on Congress to revisit the controversial idea of providing a government-run insurance plan as part of the offerings under the Affordable Care Act.


The so-called “public option” was jettisoned from the health law by a handful of conservative Democrats in the Senate in 2009. Every Democrat’s vote was needed to pass the bill in the face of unanimous Republican opposition.

But in a “special communication” article published on the website of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the president said a lack of insurance plan competition in some areas may warrant a new look.

“Now, based on experience with the ACA, I think Congress should revisit a public plan to compete alongside private insurers in areas of the country where competition is limited,” Obama wrote.

The president also called on Congress to take more steps to rein in the cost of prescription drugs and make government assistance more generous for those who still cannot afford health coverage, while urging the 19 states that have not yet expanded the Medicaid program under the health law to do it.

The public option has been a point of controversy from the start. It was included in the version of the health law passed by the House, and had support from most Democrats in the Senate, before it was dropped. Many liberals hoped — and conservatives feared — that having the government provide insurance alongside private companies would be a step toward a full government-run system.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — under pressure from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call for a single-payer government system — in February endorsed the idea of including a public option to allow people age 55 and older to purchase Medicare coverage. On Saturday, as part of a deal with Sanders, Clinton announced she will also “pursue efforts to give Americans in every state in the country the choice of a public-option insurance plan,” which is broader than what Obama is endorsing.

But even if Clinton wins and the Democrats take back control of Congress in November, a true public option remains a political longshot.

The article, titled “United States Health Care Reform: Progress to Date and Next Steps,” is apparently the first by a sitting president published by the prestigious medical journal.

It includes a justification for the health law, statistics on how its implementation has improved both insurance coverage and health care quality, as well as recommendations for further action.

Kristie Canegallo, the White House deputy chief of staff for implementation, told a group of health reporters that the article grew out of a comprehensive review of the law ordered by the president late last year.

The review was to look at “what’s working, what’s not, and what we should do about it,” she said. Upon receiving the review, she added, Obama “thought it was important to share some of this publicly.”

Among those parts of the law the administration says are working are the coverage provisions. “The number of uninsured individuals in the United States has declined from 49 million in 2010 to 29 million in 2015,” the president wrote.

The article also claims that the health law has played a substantial role in slowing the rate of health spending.

“While the Great Recession and other factors played a role in recent trends, the [president’s] Council of Economic Advisers has found evidence that the reforms introduced by the ACA helped both slow health care costs growth and drive improvements in the quality of care,” says the article.

Jason Furman, chairman of the council, told reporters at the briefing that the continuing slow growth in health spending so many years out from the recession makes the argument that the economy is mostly responsible for the slowdown “absurd at this point.”

While most of the piece is a chart-driven, footnoted recitation of the impact of the health law, Obama did use his perch to suggest the current state of politics in Washington threatens progress going forward.

“Any change is difficult, but it is especially difficult in the face of hyperpartisanship,” he wrote. “Republicans reversed course and rejected their own ideas once they appeared in the text of a bill that I supported.”

Republicans, however, are continuing their assault on the health law. Just last week, two House Committees released a joint investigative report and held two hearings asserting that the administration is illegally providing funds to help lower-income individuals pay for their health coverage.

The claim is also the subject of a lawsuit currently in federal court.

The White House, however, remains unimpressed with by the claim.

“The Department of Justice … has made clear we have a permanent appropriation for this,” said Canegallo.

–Julie Rovner, Kaiser Health News

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16 Responses for “Obama Renews Call for Public Option in Health Law to Compete With Private Insurers”

  1. DRedder says:

    Conservative Democrats, now that’s one hell of an oxymoron!

  2. r&r says:

    You get what you and who you voted for. Back when it was voted in remember what Pelosi said [leader of congress] We don’t know what we’re approving, we’ll look at it when it’s voted into Law.

  3. Tired of it says:

    Hasn’t this poor excuse for a President screwed up this country enough? Just go away!

  4. Coyote says:

    “Any change is difficult, but it is especially difficult in the face of hyperpartisanship,” he wrote. “Republicans reversed course and rejected their own ideas once they appeared in the text of a bill that I supported.”

    Regardless of WHO said this, or which party they are a member of – it is one of the biggest problems this country is facing today. The whole idea of “What’s good for the Country?” has been degraded to “What does MY party support?” and “If it’s from the ‘other’ side, we *HAVE* to vote it down – regardless of whether it does the country/state/county/city any good”.

    The only real agenda of BOTH the Democratic and the Republican parties seems to be the continued existence of the party system – regardless of what it costs our country and citizens.

  5. daveT says:

    No new anything under this President. Lets just wait until the next loser gets in office and make up yet another name for health care reform.

  6. Obama 2016 says:

    It’s amazing to me how many people bash Obama considering his administration had deported more illegals and killed more terrorist than any other.

    Obama has also signed 3 pro gun bills and has done everything possible to make healthcare affordable and protect our troops and their families since 2009.

    Congress and the Senate have done nothing but try and unravel rights and block any plans to allow this country to evolve. Americans should be mad at the men and woman that take money to vote for special interest because they are the real reason our country has some major issues.

    Also how would you do if the minute the people elected you the republicans said the main goal to keep you from getting a second term? I am sure most keyboard warriors would have just given up and walked away like Sarah Palin did but Obama didn’t. He kept pushing and being an amazing leader for our country.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-A09a_gHJc

    But let me ask you..

    What has the Republican party done for you?

    Some of what Obama has done since 2009:

    May 2, 2011 Order to kill Osama bin Laden successful.

    ADDED about 9.5 million jobs during his term — from the time Obama took office in January 2009 through July 2016

    $186 billion in tax relief for all tax payers by extending the Bush income tax cuts for 2010 & 2011

    $70 billion in tax relief for middle class workers by patching the Alternative Minimum Tax for one year

    Tax credit of $400 per worker ($800 per couple) for middle income workers for 2009 & 2010 totaling $116 billion

    1.45 million American jobs saved overall by government financing and restructuring of GM and Chrysler to avoid liquidation

    All Freedom of Information responses to be posted online after a successful pilot program was permanately expanded and signed into law

    40 ISIS operatives responsible for multiple attacks in Europe and the Middle East killed by Delta Force and Navy SEAL commandos during various raids

    Homeowners taken advantage of by deceptive mortgage practices received HARP assistance to keep homes

    Ten Navy sailors detained by Iran after accidentally sailing into their waters freed within 24 hours through diplomatic negotiations

    Solar and wind energy production to double in size through a five year extension of Federal tax credits

    Government mandated threshold for all hourly workers to qualify for overtime pay increased from $23,660 to $50,440.
    Think about that as a Reality Show Real Estate agent that has more lawsuits and bankruptcies than a normal person can count sign sits on your lawn.

  7. Mark says:

    Dear Obama,

    Congress can’t do anything because Obama won’t sign anything they pass into law. What has Obama compromised on? Hence, his overreaching Executive Orders.

    P.S. I am sure if any President had Osama in his sites he would have killed him. And How many illegal immigrants have entered the country while he has deported record number, which he has not. When you decipher the difference between “returns” and “removals”then tell me about “deportations”. Talk to me about FOIA when hillary releases all her info. Jobs saved? How many people aren’t even looking for work? Tax relief, your delusional. Saved our sailor? Maybe they should never have been captured in the first place. Our country is in the sh*tter thanks to our divider-in-chief. Don’t even get me started on the $2500 health care savings and you can keep your doctor.

  8. Sherry says:

    Having an option similar to Medicare for EVERYONE is a really GREAT idea! Keeping the quality and astronomical costs our health care controlled by “for profit” industries like insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies that maximize their profits by gouging our sick and injured citizens is obscene!

    Let’s all move beyond partisan thinking and voting. . . and passionately support providing high quality health care at a reasonable price for all!

  9. Sherry says:

    To all President Obama Bashers. . . While “twice elected” President Obama’s approval ratings are at 50%, the “Republican” party is only at 35%, and the “Republican” controlled Congress approval rating is deplorable at 31%. . . take a look at the pew research web site:

    http://www.people-press.org/2016/07/07/7-views-of-barack-obama-the-political-parties-congress-and-the-nations-economy/

  10. Obama 2016 says:

    @Mark.

    Obama vetoed 10 bills in 7+ years, 0 have been overwritten. Here are the bills and Obama’s reasons.
    http://www.senate.gov/reference/Legislation/Vetoes/ObamaBH.htm

    Maybe if Congress and the Senate would stop putting in riders in the bills he wouldn’t have to veto them?

    The Senate and Congress has been in GOP control for a few years now, why can’t you override his vetos?

    Executive Orders are necessary when you have a do nothing Congress and Senate,

    Executive Orders seemed to be OK with Bush and Reagan was in office but if Obama does it he is a dictator.

    Obama 242
    Bush SR 166 (4 years)
    Bush JR 291
    Reagan 381
    Nixon 346

    All I provided are facts, you can Benghazi them as much as you want. Anyone that thinks this country is int he shi**ter hasn’t seen what the rest of the world is like.

    Our country is great but we do have issues. Just like any where else.

    Stop hiding your ignorance behind your patriotism. That is what is dividing this country.

  11. Geezer says:

    There’s already a public option in Florida (actually there’s 2).

    – Drop dead
    – Relocate

  12. Mark says:

    Dear Obama,

    It’s difficult to override a veto when you don’t have enough votes to do it, because of the obstructionist DemocRATs. It’s not the amount of Eos that is the problem, it’s the overreach. Ever hear of the Constitution. Dear leader can’t make law. What is dividing the country is leaderships policies or lack thereof. Leading by delusional reaction is not leading. Nothing ignorant about it. Just look at the streets alive with protestors. Look at the state of our military. Look at the state of our stagnant economy. Look at how many people are on food stamps and not even looking for work. look at the cost of healthcare and the failing exchanges. Look at the state of race relations. And Obama is worried about global warming and who is using what bathroom. Yes, ignorance abounds and half the country has their heads up their a**es, Guess which half. The Senate under McConnell has passed more legislation in the last year than Reid did in 4 years of lame leadership. Facts.

  13. Sherry says:

    Obama 2016. . . thanks for the “factual” information! Unfortunately. . . Obama bashers are not interested in watering down their prejudices with actual FACTS. They prefer to spew partisan fear and hatred regardless of any truth!

    Dear Geezer. . . always injecting humor while making an excellent point . . . I love it! Bon Jour from high on the cliff above gorgeous Villefranche-Sur-Mer!

  14. Sherry says:

    For all the Trump supporters. . . take a look at what well over 1,500 Wharton students, alumni and teachers think of him:

    You Do Not Represent Us: An Open Letter to Donald Trump

    Dear Mr. Trump:

    At the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, students are taught to represent the highest levels of respect and integrity. We are taught to embrace humility and diversity. We can understand why, in seeking America’s highest office, you have used your degree from Wharton to promote and lend legitimacy to your candidacy.

    As a candidate for President, and now as the presumptive GOP nominee, you have been afforded a trans-formative opportunity to be a leader on national and international stages and to make the Wharton community even prouder of our school and values.

    However, we have been deeply disappointed in your candidacy.

    We, proud students, alumni, and faculty of Wharton, are outraged that an affiliation with our school is being used to legitimize prejudice and intolerance. Although we do not aim to make any political endorsements with this letter, we do express our unequivocal stance against the xenophobia, sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry that you have actively and implicitly endorsed in your campaign.

    The Wharton community is a diverse community. We are immigrants and children of immigrants, people of color, Muslims, Jews, women, people living with or caring for those with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ community. In other words, we represent the groups that you have repeatedly denigrated, as well as their steadfast friends, family, and allies.

    We recognize that we are fortunate to be educated at Wharton, and we are committed to using our opportunity to make America and the world a better place — for everyone. We are dedicated to promoting inclusion not only because diversity and tolerance have been repeatedly proven to be valuable assets to any organization’s performance, but also because we believe in mutual respect and human dignity as deeply held values. Your insistence on exclusion and scapegoating would be bad for business and bad for the American economy. An intolerant America is a less productive, less innovative, and less competitive America.

    We, the undersigned Wharton students, alumni, and faculty, unequivocally reject the use of your education at Wharton as a platform for promoting prejudice and intolerance. Your discriminatory statements are incompatible with the values that we are taught and we teach at Wharton, and we express our unwavering commitment to an open and inclusive American society.

  15. Obama 2016 says:

    @mark

    It’s difficult to override a veto when you don’t have enough votes to do it.

    Isn’t that what the Constitution allows for?

    It’s not the amount of Eos that is the problem, it’s the overreach. Ever hear of the Constitution. Dear leader can’t make law.

    Bush JR did 291 times.

    What is dividing the country is leaderships policies or lack thereof. Leading by delusional reaction is not leading. Nothing ignorant about it. Just look at the streets alive with protestors.

    Just looked.. my street looks fine. Protests happen each day. Media covers what they want.

    Look at the state of our military.
    Best in the world. So good we use drones to kill terrorists like a video game.

    Look at the state of our stagnant economy.
    Gas prices are low, Jobs growth at all time high, housing Market highest in 8 years. In fact our dollar is stronger than most countries.

    Look at how many people are on food stamps and not even looking for work.

    I don’t look at how many people are on food stamps or don’t want to work. I have my own life to worry about. I pay $36 a year in my taxes to fund the food stamp program. Nine cents a day is what your worried about?

    look at the cost of healthcare and the failing exchanges.

    Agreed. Have Congress and the Senate vote for fixes instead of killing RomneyCare/Obamacare. Or expand medicare to all Americans.

    Look at the state of race relations.
    Been the same crap since the 1960’s

    And Obama is worried about global warming and who is using what bathroom.
    Obama has passed and made thousands of statements on the ongoing concerns of the country. Last time I checked it wasn’t him that was worried about who was peeing next to .

    Yes, ignorance abounds and half the country has their heads up their a**es, Guess which half. The Senate under McConnell has passed more legislation in the last year than Reid did in 4 years of lame leadership. Facts.

    That is great news. I didn’t know that. 30 of its bills having been signed into law by President Obama. I hope that starts to work in Congress. I don’t care who is passing the bills if they are going to solve issues.

  16. A little Common Sense please says:

    Do I read between the lines that some Obama worshippers and Obama, are hoping for marshal law to be declared so he can stay in office – maybe?

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