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White House Back Down From Government-Run Healthcare

August 17, 2009

The White House is showing that it may be ready to drop government-run health insurance in its march toward healthcare reform.

On Sunday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called public option health insurance not “essential” to President Barack Obama’s vision for a revamped healthcare system.

“I think what’s important is choice and competition, and I’m convinced that at the end of the day the plan will have both of those — but that is not the essential element,” Sebelius told CNN’s “State of the Union”.

“The president is just continuing to say let’s not have this be the only focus of the conversation,” she added.

Signs that the Obama administration may be weakening its approach to a public-option healthcare system would be viewed by as a symbolic victory for the Republican Party.

In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was questioned about the possibility of a reform plan that did not include government-controlled heath insurance.

“The president believes the option of a government plan is the best way to provide competition,” Gibbs said Sunday.

“The bottom line again is do individuals looking for health insurance in the private market have choice and competition? If we have that the president will be satisfied.”

President Obama has backed a public-option plan in an effort to provide coverage for 46 million uninsured Americans.

He initially pushed for Congress to vote on a comprehensive healthcare bill before summer recess earlier this month. However, it became clear to Senators of both parties that they would require more time to discuss the bill before holding a vote.

“It’s better to have a product based on quality and thoughtfulness rather than try to jam something through,” said Senate Majority leader Harry Reid.

But during the August recess, many Senators have had an earful of dissent from protestors against the public-option plan.

“All I’m saying is, though, that the public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of health care reform,” President Obama said at a town hall meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado during a 4-state trip to push for reform. “This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it.”

One Republican critic, Senator Richard Shelby, told “Fox News Sunday,” that “President Obama and his Cabinet — have read the tea leaves of America right now.”

Another plan on the table includes the option for consumer-owned nonprofit cooperatives to compete in the insurance market with private firms.

Democratic Senator Kent Conrad has proposed the co-op idea, which has gained about $3 billion to $4 billion in government support thus far, according to the Associated Press.

“I don’t know if it will do everything people want, but we ought to look at it. I think it’s a far cry from the original proposals,” said Republican Senator Richard Shelby.

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