- Marionville mayor ‘kind of agreed’ with Kansas City shooter’s views
- Rev. Al Sharpton’s Easter message: Politically ‘crucified’ Obama has risen again
- Supreme Court to weigh challenge to ban on campaign lies
- UNICEF launches ‘Mr. Poo’ mascot in India to curb public defecation
- Teen taking selfie by train: ‘Wow, that guy just kicked me in the head’
- Goodbye, Afghanistan — hello, Africa: Air Force to shift as U.S. exits Middle East
- Iran mulls ban on vasectomies, decrease on abortions to bolster population
- CNN op-ed claims right-wingers ‘more deadly than jihadists’
- Classes resume at high school rocked by stabbings
- ABC News accuses Center for Public Integrity of stealing Pulitzer-winning work
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 email@example.com.
- 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
TWT Video Picks
By returning to Christian roots, the nation can achieve greatness once again
- 'Culture of intimidation' seen in Nevada ranch standoff
- GOP writes legislation to deny Attorney General Eric Holder his salary
- Nevada Bundy ranch standoff could leave dirt on Harry Reid reputation
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- Rand and Ron Paul ride to the rescue for Bundy in Nevada standoff with feds
- UNICEF launches 'Mr. Poo' mascot in India to curb public defecation
- Atheists rush to stage Easter display: 'Jesus Christ is a myth'
- Fuel-filled wings, ability to swarm: Pentagon offers glimpse at future of drone fleet
- Secret U.S. assessments show Afghanistan not ready to govern on own
- CARSON: Recovering Tocqueville's vision of American exceptionalism
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.