Barack Obama calls for revisiting the public option

By: | Published: July 12, 2016 8:24 AM

President Barack Obama is laying out a blueprint for addressing unsolved problems with his signature health law, including a renewed call for a "public option" to let Americans buy insurance from the government.

NATOBarack Obama’s latest ideas are likely to be dismissed by Republicans, who remain committed to repealing the health care law. (Reuters)

President Barack Obama is laying out a blueprint for addressing unsolved problems with his signature health law, including a renewed call for a “public option” to let Americans buy insurance from the government.

Obama’s assessment of the Affordable Care Act comes in an eight-page article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a peer-reviewed publication.

The article debuted yesterday on the journal’s website, and Obama plans to echo the themes in public events and speeches in the coming weeks.

Replete with academic-style citations, the article is largely a self-congratulatory look at what Obama sees as the accomplishments of his law: millions of Americans who have gained coverage, slower growth in overall health costs and better coordination of care to improve quality.

Yet it’s also a memo for Democrat Hillary Clinton on how she can build on his legacy if elected president.

Obama’s latest ideas are likely to be dismissed by Republicans, who remain committed to repealing the health care law. In polls, “Obamacare” continues to divide the public.Despite progress under his administration, “too many Americans still strain to pay for their physician visits and prescriptions, cover their deductibles or pay their monthly insurance bills,” Obama wrote.

Others struggle to navigate the “bewildering” health system. Too many still lack insurance coverage, he added.

Obama urged lawmakers to “revisit” the public plan, especially in areas of the country where there is little or no competition among private insurers participating in HealthCare.gov and state-run marketplaces created by the law.

Many experts consider that at least three insurers are needed for a competitive market. But many small towns and rural areas have only one option.

The problem is growing, as some commercial insurers scale back their participation in the health law’s markets, and more than a dozen nonprofit insurance co-ops have collapsed.

Kristie Canegallo, White House deputy chief of staff, said Obama will keep making his case for a public option to voters, but he doesn’t plan to send the Republican-run Congress new legislation to implement it. “This Congress is not going to act on a proposal like that,” Canegallo said.

During hard-fought negotiations in Congress before Obama signed the law in 2010, liberals pushed vehemently for a public option, in which Americans could opt for a government-run plan similar to Medicare.

It was scuttled to secure enough votes from moderate Democrats to pass the bill. Now, Obama aims to influence the debate about health care in the presidential election.

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