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Obama Comes Out Strong for Public Health Plan « The Washington Independent

In a letter to Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), President Obama yesterday gave the strongest indication yet that he wants to include a public plan option as part of the Democrats’ strategy to overhaul the nation’s health care system this year.

The plans you are discussing embody my core belief that Americans should have better choices for health insurance, building on the principle that if they like the coverage they have now, they can keep it, while seeing their costs lowered as our reforms take hold. But for those who don’t have such options, I agree that we should create a health insurance exchange – a market where Americans can one-stop shop for a health care plan, compare benefits and prices, and choose the plan that’s best for them, in the same way that Members of Congress and their families can. None of these plans should deny coverage on the basis of a preexisting condition, and all of these plans should include an affordable basic benefit package that includes prevention, and protection against catastrophic costs. I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans. (Emphasis mine). This will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest.

Of note, there are no details here about what form Obama has in mind for his public plan. Strategies occupy a spectrum — everything from a single-payer Medicare-type system being pushed by the most liberal members of Congress to a fallback system that would trigger the option of a public plan only in regions where private plans didn’t meet certain requirements for coverage and cost.

Kennedy, who chairs the Senate health committee, has already indicated that he wants a public plan to be part of his proposal, but Baucus has been more cautious, touting the desire to craft something that Republicans would support. If nothing else, Obama’s letter is a signal to Baucus that the White House plans to put its full weight behind the public option, and perhaps he should, too.

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