- 6-year-old boy suspended for sexual harassment over kiss
- Voters deciding Mass. congressional contest
- WestJet grants Christmas wishes for 250 airline passengers
- U.S. vet held in North Korea says statement was coerced
- NTSB hearing on San Francisco airliner crash postponed
- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford insists he has dried out, vows sobriety test
- Greenpeace video warns that climate change is wrecking Santa’s home
- Herman Cain profiled in ‘Political Power’ comic book
- Hagel renews Qatar defense pact despite differences over Iran, Syria
- Fire departments fear Obamacare will gut volunteer ranks
Sebelius calls for more insurance oversight
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House panel Wednesday that a government-run health care plan is needed to keep in check the private insurance industry, which she says wields too much power and often fails to best serve the public.
“The president is committed to - and I’m committed to - a design that needs to level the playing field, and it’s on two fronts,” Mrs. Sebelius said while testifying during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on health care reform.
Those two fronts include a more regulated private sector and a government-run “public option” insurance plan, which President Obama and congressional Democrats say would provide needed competition for the private insurance market.
Private insurers too often cherry-pick the healthiest customers as a way to lower operating costs, said Mrs. Sebelius, who supports instituting restrictions that would prohibit medical insurers from denying coverage to at-risk persons.
“Getting rid of some of the pre-existing medical-condition barriers that allow [for] a skewed marketplace is important,” the former Democratic Kansas governor said. “But having a [public] option for individuals, having a choice for the Americans who don’t currently have coverage, and having competition to drive the best practices … I think can be very positive in the long run.”
The secretary’s comments come as liberal health care advocates increasingly have pressured the White House and Capitol Hill Democrats for a strong government-run health care option.
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who wields considerable influence among his party’s left wing, said Monday that Democrats and Mr. Obama will suffer politically if they don’t strike more boldly on health care.
Mr. Dean, a former Vermont governor and a 2004 presidential candidate, said activists must make it clear to the Democrats who won’t back a public option to the plan “that your vote is going to be connected to how they do on health insurance.”
“The election of Barack Obama has turned over this country to a new generation,” he said. “We’re going to have an all-out fight about this … . We’re not going to go down again.”
The private health insurance industry has said it would be willing to stop charging higher rates for customers with health risks in exchange for a government mandate that people buy insurance.
“If we can get everybody in the health care system we can do the market reforms [Mrs. Sebelius] is talking about,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, one of the nation’s largest insurance lobbyists.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it fears a government-run health insurance option would force many - if not most or all - private insurers out of business.
“The chamber agrees with Secretary Sebelius, but the solution is not to create a new entitlement plan,” said chamber spokesman James Gelfand. “The solution is aggressive regulation within the private insurance industry, and they’ve already accepted that.”
Mrs. Sebelius’ comments came a day after Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said private health care insurers enjoy too much regulatory freedom.
“You don’t want a public plan to have an unfair advantage, I agree. But just as bad as a public plan with an unfair advantage is a proposal with no public plan at all,” said Mr. Schumer during a Senate Finance Committee health care hearing.
When Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, said during Tuesday’s Senate hearing that Americans don’t trust the government enough to run health care, Mr. Schumer fired back, saying that they have “a lot more problems with private insurance companies.”
About the Author
Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- GOP tests Democrats on college loan issue
- Lawmakers outside intelligence loop get miffed about briefing structure in Congress
- John Boehner: Time is right to bring latest farm bill to House floor
- Supreme Court nears rulings on key voting rights cases
- John Boehner demands answers on NSA, phone records
Latest Blog Entries
By Tom Fitton
New photos confirm the attack's coordination and its cover-up
- American bourbon now better than Scottish whiskey: U.K.-born expert
- FITTON: A closer look at the Benghazi lie
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- PRUDEN: Waiting for Nelson Mandela without the tears
- Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu backs out of Nelson Mandela funeral
- Obama lied about Syrian chemical attack, 'cherry-picked' intelligence: report
- Troops forced to rely on welfare, holiday charity
- Obama shakes hands with Cuba's Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's funeral
- Oregon fails to sign up single person on health care website as states struggle
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Notes from a running nerd: musings and more on all things running.
NFL junkie Eric Golub reports on his favorite obsession. There is no football offseason. Every February he pretends to care about other sports while sobbing uncontrollably each Sunday until September.
The cold hard truth about politics in America today and the state of this once great nation.
The world impacts us. What happens in our towns, cities, states, country and on this planet makes a difference to us.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow