During her hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Secretary of HHS-designate Kathleen Sebelius responded to Senator Schumer's questions regarding whether Americans should be able to choose between public and private health plans, by noting such a situation of fair competition already exists in over 30 state employee benefit plans.
In her written follow-up to the questions submitted for the record by the Finance Committee, Sebelius addressed some of the Republican concerns about the public health insurance plan. In response to a question from Senator Kyl on whether a public plan was necessary to insure all Americans, Sebelius explained some of President Obama's thinking when he included the idea of a public health insurance plan among his campaign proposals:
The President‘s campaign plan proposed a public option alongside private insurance options in a National Health Insurance Exchange. He recognizes the importance of giving the American people this choice, which would also challenge private insurers to compete on cost and quality, not cream-skimming and risk selection.
Sebelius also addressed Senator Ensign's concerns about the ability of private plans to compete with a public health insurance, stressing the importance of "maintaining a level playing field" and stating "the public plan option should pay providers competitive rates, and the private plan options should be barred from cherry-picking the healthiest enrollees." Sebelius had similar responses to Senator Grassley's questions on the issue, making clear that "the President is open to good ideas from both sides of the aisle, and he will work with Congress on this and other elements of the plan."
While the issue of a public health insurance plan has figured prominently in earlier coverage of the health reform debate, only a handful of the 209 questions posed to Sebelius by members of the Senate Finance Committee were about a public plan. Here's a brief sampling of Sebelius response to some of the major health reform questions: