Huffington Post

Speaking at a town hall in Green Bay Wisconsin, President Barack Obama addressed head on what is the hot debate of the day: whether a health reform overhaul should include a public option for health insurance.

“I also strongly believe that one of the options in the exchange should be a public insurance option,” Obama declared, in what was one of his most forceful statements of support since the health care debate began. “And the reason is not because we want a government takeover of health care. I’ve already said, if you’ve got a private plan that works for you, that’s great. But we want some competition. If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it will keep them honest and it will help keep their prices down.”

The remarks came just several hours after the American Medical Association said it would oppose a public option for coverage. But in a reflection of just how delicate this debate has become, the 250,000 member physician group largely backtracked from its opposition later in the day.

“Make no mistake: health reform that covers the uninsured is AMA’s top priority this year,” a clarifying statement from the group read. “Every American deserves affordable, high-quality health care coverage.

“Today’s New York Times story creates a false impression about the AMA’s position on a public plan option in health care reform legislation. The AMA opposes any public plan that forces physicians to participate, expands the fiscally-challenged Medicare program or pays Medicare rates, but the AMA is willing to consider other variations of the public plan that are currently under discussion in Congress. This includes a federally chartered co-op health plan or a level playing field option for all plans. The AMA is working to achieve meaningful health reform this year and is ready to stand behind legislation that includes coverage options that work for patients and physicians.”

While not directly addressing AMA’s position on the public plan, the president did offer what seemed to be a subtle dig at the group’s seemingly conflicting objectives. AMA’s mission has been health care coverage for all, but it has also opposed every major attempt at a systematic overhaul since the FDR administration.

“Doctors didn’t get into the medical profession to be bean counters or paper pushers,” Obama said in his early remarks, underscoring the bureaucratic problems that exists in the status quo. “They are not interested in spending all their time acting like lawyers or business executives.”

Later in the question and answer session, Obama directly addressed the political component of the debate over the public option, gently calling out critiques for misrepresenting the plan’s objectives.

Read the full article at The Huffington Post

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