Oh, the Republicans have been having a field day with this mantra - that employers would shunt their employees into the public plan. But they're really upset for the same reason Sebelius mentioned as a positive: Job lock. Above all else, the Republican party stands for cheap, disposable labor with no rights or protections. God forbid you should have a public option - you could up and leave your job anytime you wanted!
In the meantime, a White House staffer sent this statement to health care activists late this afternoon:
Nothing has changed. POTUS has always said that what is essential is that health insurance reform must lower costs, ensure that there are affordable options for all Americans and increase choice and competition. He believes the public option is the best way to achieve those goals.
From This Week, with Jake Tapper:
TAPPER: OK, I'll -- I'll take that as a "yes" and then we'll move on. The president often -- and he did last night in Colorado -- says to the American people that, if they like their doctor, they can keep their doctor. If they like their insurance plan, they can keep their insurance plan. But according to the Congressional Budget Office, if a public plan, if a public option is introduced, at least 2 million Americans will be switched by their employer from a private plan to the public plan.
Now, that doesn't get into the whole issue of employers dropping health care coverage in general and all the people that will be added to the rolls, and I understand that. But how can the administration make the promise that if you like your insurance plan you can keep it, when CBO and other analysts estimate that some people will be switched from private to public?
SEBELIUS: Well, I think, Jake, if you -- if you think about a marketplace option and new plans being created in Toledo, Ohio, or in California or in Florida, the network of doctors is likely to be pretty identical. A lot of plans exist in the same marketplace, and doctors are part of a variety of networks. So the idea that you would keep your own doctor is highly likely.
The other thing about the -- the new marketplace is, I think, the president is eager to stabilize the employer marketplace. Small- business owners right now are dropping coverage because they can't any longer afford it. They can't stay in the market.
With the new tax incentives that are part of health reform, small-business owners would be encouraged to actually stabilize their insurance plans, to offer coverage to their employees. They'd have tax credits. They'd have some help for the low-income employees to be able to afford the coverage.
So I think, if anything, it wouldn't dismantle the present market. It would actually help to provide a more stable private marketplace, which right now serves 180 million Americans very well. People like those plans. They want to make sure that if they have employer-based coverage that they like, they can keep it. And this would actually encourage and help employers to stay in the market.
On the other hand, if you lose your job, right now you lose your coverage. And -- and the new reform plan would make sure that you had an affordable option even if you lost your job, if you wanted to go out on your own and start your new business, which lots of people want to do, you wouldn't lose your health coverage.
So it would have some choices for consumers to make so they wouldn't have the kind of job lock that we see now across America.
But she backs off on the public option on CNN's State of the Union today:
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama's health secretary is suggesting the White House is ready to accept nonprofit insurance cooperatives instead of a government-run public option in a health overhaul plan. A Republican senator says that is worth looking at.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says Obama still believes there should be choice and competition" in the health insurance market - but that a public option is "not the essential element."
Obama has been pressing for the government to run a health insurance organization to help cover the nation's nearly 50 million uninsured. But he had not seen a not-for-profit co-op as sufficient to offer consumers choice and competition that would bring down the costs of private insurance.
Sebelius spoke on CNN's "State of the Union."