Obama Promotes 'Public Option' For Health Care

| by Sarah Zimmerman
President Barack ObamaPresident Barack Obama

In a special article published by JAMA, the American Medical Association's most prestigious journal, President Barack Obama called on Congress to revisit the controversial idea of providing a government-run insurance plan. If enacted, Democrats hope it would be the first step towards a completely government-run health care system.

The "public option," when introduced alongside the Affordable Care Act six years ago, was supposed to provide a less expensive alternative for lower-income families and decrease costs of prescription medications, according to NPR.

Additionally, its low cost would supposedly pressure private health care companies to lower their rates if they wanted to remain viable options in the marketplace. Unfortunately for Obama and other liberals, the plan was dropped from the health care law as it did not receive enough votes in the Senate.

Now, Obama claims the idea deserves a second look by the legislative branch. He is the first sitting president to publish an article in a top medical journal. Entitled  "United States Health Care Reform: Progress to Date and Next Steps," Obama recounts the ACA's positive impact, claiming the legislation increased insurance coverage and also improved health care quality overall. 

"While the Great Recession and other factors played a role in recent trends, the [president's] Council of Economic Advisers has found evidence that the reforms introduced by the ACA helped both slow health care costs growth and drive improvements in the quality of care," Obama writes in the article, reports NPR.

Although the article itself is mostly fact-driven, Obama does suggest that Republicans in Congress are a threat to American progress. "Any change is difficult, but it is especially difficult in the face of hyperpartisanship," he writes. "Republicans reversed course and rejected their own ideas once they appeared in the text of a bill that I supported."

Passing a public option in a Republican-run Congress would be next to impossible, according to NPR. Even if Hillary Clinton -- who under pressure from Sen. Bernie Sanders now endorses the idea of a public option -- were to win the presidency, the plan would still be a long-shot. 

GOP House leaders have recently released their platform that plans on striking most of the ACA and offering an alternative involving different tax credits and insurer requirements so Americans could buy their own coverage instead of relying on government-subsidized options, Fox Business reports. 

"The reason you're not going to have a government-run health care pass the Senate is because it would be devastating for this country," Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham told ABC News in 2009. "We've tried this model -- people have tried this model in other countries ... In socialized health care models, people have to wait longer to get care and the government begins to cut back on what's available because of the cost explosion."

Sources: NPR, Fox Business, ABC News / Photo credit: Flickr

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