In an interview with NPR, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stressed that talk of a public plan doesn’t mean that a single-payer option is a possibility.
“This is not a trick. This is not single payer… That’s not what anyone is talking about — mostly because the president feels strongly, as I do, that dismantling private health coverage for the 180 million Americans that have it, discouraging more employers from coming into the marketplace, is really the bad, you know, is a bad direction to go,” she said.
Sebelius added that a public insurance option would pressure private insurance companies to lower costs, which she says is “a good thing for the American public. Medicare right now has lower overhead than private insurers.” Some Republicans have argued that Americans currently in private plans would flee to the public option, but Sebelius countered that expanding health insurance would potentially create “50 million-plus new insurance customers, whether you’re talking about a private plan or public option.”
Republicans have also “raised the specter that a public option could evolve into a single-payer health care system where funding comes from one source — usually the government,” leading to rationing in care and long treatment delays. But “asked if the administration’s program will be drafted specifically to prevent it from evolving into a single-payer plan, Sebelius says: ‘I think that’s very much the case, and again, if you want anybody to convince people of that, talk to the single-payer proponents who are furious that the single-payer idea is not part of the discussion.” She adds that, “the whole idea of the public option has been difficult, in part, because some of the opposition has described it as a potential for a, you know, draconian scenario that was never part of the discussion in the first place… so, disabusing people of what is not going to happen is often difficult, because there’s no tangible way to do that” (6/16).