Obama: Health reform needs public insurer option
"The public plan, I think, is an important tool to discipline insurance companies," Obama told a White House news conference.
The United States spends some $2.5 trillion annually on healthcare, about 16 percent of gross domestic product, but trails many developed countries on important measures of health. Some 47 million Americans are uninsured and have little access to the healthcare system.
An organization representing private health insurance companies made public its blunt rejection of any state-run health plan, posting a June 19 letter to Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy on its website:
"A government plan option -- in any form -- is unnecessary to achieve comprehensive reform and would have devastating consequences on the health insurance coverage," said the letter from the heads of America's Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
Republicans and private insurance companies have raised concerns over a public plan, arguing it would lead to a government takeover of the entire U.S. healthcare system and drive private insurance companies out of business.
Obama rejected that notion at his news conference.
"If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can't run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical," he said. "They should be able to compete."
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