Top ObamaCare lobbyists reject ‘public option’ push

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Longtime ObamaCare lobbyists are soundly rejecting one of Hillary Clinton’s most prominent healthcare pitches: the public option.

Leaders of the nation’s largest hospital, pharmaceutical and insurer trade groups said on Tuesday they wouldn’t support a Clinton administration’s push for a public option without first ensuring the Obamacare marketplaces work. 

{mosads}“We think we need to make these [marketplaces] viable before we give any consideration of going to a public option,” Rick Pollack, president of the American Hospital Association, told a crowd at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Marilyn Tavenner, who leads America’s Health Insurance Plans, said creating a public option would be “a huge mistake.”

“I just think we need to solve the problems that we have, rather than chasing yet another government program,” she said.

Progressive groups, as well as a growing number of lawmakers, are floating the public option as a way to protect ObamaCare marketplaces from dwindling competition.

Over the past year, insurers in many states have pulled out of ObamaCare exchanges because of financial losses, leaving parts of the country with just one coverage option.

Supporters such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a one-time Democratic presidential candidate, have said a competing government-run public option would ensure competition nationwide — particularly in rural areas. 

Clinton threw her support behind the proposal in July as part of her effort to court Sanders’s voters in the wake of a competitive primary.

A longtime item on Democrats’ healthcare wish list, the public option was last seriously considered as Congress was drafting ObamaCare in 2009. Many of those who helped write the legislation said the public option was effectively killed after Senate Democrats lost their supermajority following a Massachusetts special election in January 2010.

Some Democrats have vowed to push for a public option again in 2017. 

A bill by progressive Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) has 33 cosponsors, and it could get a lift if Sanders takes the reins of the Senate Health Committee — should Democrats win back the upper chamber.

Steve Ubl, the head of Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, said the idea was “rightly rejected” during the last healthcare debate.

“It puts the government’s thumbs on the scales in a way that is likely to discourage private plans from participating in the market,” Ubl, who is the former CEO of the medical device lobby, said.

Tags Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton Jeff Merkley
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