Key support is lining up for a public option in pending health care reform. That includes incoming HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who declared her supportffor it in testimony yesterday in her first confirmation hearing.
"If the question is do I support a public option side-by-side with private insurers," Sebelius said, "yes I do."
She faced questions on the issue as she testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Sebelius said she didn't support fully government-run health care.
An exchange with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., over the Obama proposal was perhaps the most heated in a low-key 2 1/2-hour hearing. Sebelius pledged that if confirmed, "health reform would be my mission."
"Inaction is not an option. The status quo is unacceptable, and unsustainable," said Sebelius, citing high health care costs that she said were hurting families and crippling the economy.
This comes along with the news (via Lindsay Beyerstein that the five committee chairs that have jurisdiction--Reps. George Miller, Waxman, and Rangel and Senators Baucus and Kennedy all support the public option, though Baucus has been a bit wavery on that one. (Which makes Gov. Dean's public advocacy effort on a public option still very relevant.)
The insurance industry and conservative opponents don't want a public option because it's the primary way to ensure that private options are affordable and provide adequate coverage. That's in a system that includes private insurers, which seems to be the system this Congress and this administration is intent on giving us. We need a public option to compete and keep the private insurers honest, and to potentially pave the way to single payer. As Atrios sez, "the only system which has a chance of not being corrupted and looted is one with a viable public option."
On another key health care reform note, kudos to Waxman for recognizing that lack of insurance isn't the only barrier, and calling for more primary care doctors and nurses in health care reform. Having an insurance card doesn't do one a whole lot of good if there isn't a doctor or nurse practitioner available to treat you.