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Bayh: ?I?m Agnostic? About Having A Public Plan As Part Of Health Care Reform

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on April 13th, 2009 4:33 am by HL

Bayh: ?I?m Agnostic? About Having A Public Plan As Part Of Health Care Reform
On Fox News Sunday this morning, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) trashed the idea of including a new public health insurance plan as part of health care reform, saying “that is exactly the opposite way” to improve health care in America. “We don’t need more money,” said Coburn. “What we need is true markets that will […]

On Fox News Sunday this morning, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) trashed the idea of including a new public health insurance plan as part of health care reform, saying “that is exactly the opposite way” to improve health care in America. “We don’t need more money,” said Coburn. “What we need is true markets that will allocate this resource and create a way for everyone to have access.”

Host Chris Wallace then asked Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) about “private sector” concerns that a public option would mean “that everybody will end up in the government program.” Bayh replied that he was “agnostic” about including a public plan in reform:

WALLACE: But the one big concern a lot of the private sector has is the president, in his program, has as a — supposedly as a provider of last resort a government program, and the concern is they’ll be able to do it so much more cheaply, or at least in terms of the cost, that everybody will end up in the government program.

BAYH: Well, it’s a debate we need to have, Chris. And I’m agnostic on that as we sit here this morning.

Watch it:

Coburn argues that the main problem with health care in America today is that “we haven’t allowed market forces to allocate resources.” But as former Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT) told ThinkProgress recently, “the free market does not work in health care, except in very perverse ways. So, you have to find a system that works better in addition to the free market.” This is why Dean argues that health reform “rises and falls on whether the public is allowed to choose” a public option.

Indeed, as Center for American Progress Action Fund Senior Fellow Peter Harbage and Director of Health Policy Karen Davenport recently wrote, “there’s no question a public plan within a public exchange is necessary“:

Fortunately, our nation’s health insurance market can be fixed with a big dose of what fixes most sectors of our economy—healthy, well-supervised competition. One of the best ways to introduce this much-needed competition is for the federal government to offer a public health insurance plan that can compete with private insurers within an insurance “exchange” that ensures public and private health insurance plans compete equally and transparently in the public marketplace.

By saying that he is “agnostic” about a public plan, Bayh appears to be aligning himself with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), who told The Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky last month that he believes health care reform can be accomplished “without” a public plan. “But we may have to have it, [Dean] may be right. Just don’t know yet,” conceded Baucus.

Transcript: More ?

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