- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2009

President Obama, in a letter to key Senate Democrats Wednesday, reiterated his backing for a government-funded public insurance plan as part of an overall health care reform package, despite opposition from many Republicans and leading industry groups to the idea.

“I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans,” he wrote to Sens. Max Baucus and Edward M. Kennedy. “This will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest.”

The letter also sets an October deadline for passing a reform bill. Mr. Baucus, Montana Democrat, chairs the Senate Finance Committee and Mr. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

A public insurance option has become the most contentious aspect of the health care reform debate. Most Democrats are in favor of setting up a public program similar to Medicare that would be available to those who can’t afford private insurance, as a way to ensure that all Americans would have coverage.

Republicans say a public program would distort the market and drive private insurers out of business.

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