The White House, facing increasing skepticism over President Obama’s call for a public insurance plan to compete with the private sector, signaled Sunday that it was willing to compromise and would consider a proposal for a nonprofit health cooperative being developed in the Senate.
The “public option,” a new government insurance program akin to Medicare, has been a central component of Mr. Obama’s agenda for overhauling the health care system, but it has also emerged as a flashpoint for anger and opposition. Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, said the public option was “not the essential element” for reform and raised the idea of the co-op during an interview on CNN.
Word that the public option might be dropped angered many liberals. One prominent Democrat, former Governor Howard Dean of Vermont, said on Monday that he saw a public plan as inextricably linked to a health overhaul. “I don’t think it can pass without the public option,” Mr. Dean, who is a physician and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said on “The Early Show” on CBS.
“There are too many people who understand, including the president himself, the public option is absolutely linked to reform,” he said. “You can’t have reform without a public option. If you really want to fix the health-care system, you’ve got to give the public the choice of having such an option.”