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ABC: Sens. Landrieu, Rockefeller on the Public Option

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Sunday, September 13, 2009; 12:33 PM

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (host): So what's the problem with the public health option?

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA.): Well, many of us believe, George, that it will undermine the private insurance system. And that's one of the criticism of the direction that the House of Representatives took. Because 55 percent of those covered with insurance today are covered through a private insurance model, 45 percent are covered through a public model.

So, many of us would like to take the president at his word, which is, let's not completely revise the whole system. Let's build on the strengths.

Now I'm with Jay in the sense that if we can find a middle ground here, where we can keep insurance honest, regulate insurance companies, no American supports unregulated insurance companies, so that there is competition in the market, we can maybe achieve the goal through a different way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the different ways that has been talked about, and then I want to move on to other subjects, is this proposal put forward by Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, which would say, let's give some time to see if the president's health insurance reforms work to bring down costs, increase competition, if not, then we'll have a trigger which will set the public option a few years down the road.

LANDRIEU: And I have to say, I think both Jay and I can agree that what Democrats want -- and I'm hoping that some Republicans will join us in this effort and not just leave Americans out there with a too-expensive system that they have and a system that's going to crash and burn shortly if we don't do anything.

I hope that we can agree that we've got to have a reformed market where individuals can buy insurance that's affordable. Where small businesses get a chance. These small businesses, 27 million of them, George, are basically out on their own.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So can you support the Snowe trigger?

LANDRIEU: I can support potentially a fallback, but only if the private sector is allowed and given a great opportunity to get this right. I believe they can.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about you?

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-W.V.): I think that's too easy an answer with all...

LANDRIEU: That's OK.

ROCKEFELLER: Lots of love.

(LAUGHTER)

ROCKEFELLER: I mean, I said I didn't think there were any good alternatives. And if you're not going to vote for something, then you have to do something about insurance, because they have been very rapacious about ripping off consumers. We have done a lot of work on that to show that, and had whistleblowers come forward.

But I'm not dispassionate on the public option.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're going to keep fighting?

ROCKEFELLER: Yes, I am going to keep fighting, because it's probably not going to attract more than -- it will probably attract less than 5 percent of the American population. And, you know, Tim -- the governor will say, it's going to track over 100 million. It won't. It won't.

But it's an option. And the very fact that it is there says to the other insurance companies, hey, if we don't bring our costs down, because the public option doesn't have -- they just live on their own premiums...


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