Position on health care public option unchanged, White House says

WASHINGTON — It's an article of faith among politicians that voters admire consistency as evidence of backbone. No leader, least of all a president, wants to be seen as flip-flopping.

So the White House is unhappy about recent news coverage suggesting President Barack Obama and his administration have changed positions on an important piece of the health care proposal: creating a government-run medical insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

The issue flared over the weekend, when senior administration officials and the president himself gave what were seen as signals that they were prepared to jettison the so-called "public option" if that's what it took to pass a health care overhaul.

Not so, the White House insisted Tuesday, pushing back against the idea that its position had changed.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, briefing reporters on Tuesday, said Obama's position on a public option is the same:

"His position, the administration's position is unchanged: that we have a goal of fostering choice and competition in a private health insurance market. The president prefers the public option as a way of doing that. If others have ideas, we're open to those ideas and willing to listen to those details. That's what the president has said for months."

Health and faith: Obama brings his message today to faith leaders who see health care reform as an ethical and religious imperative. He is scheduled to address more than 1,000 religious figures in two conference calls. First up is a "High Holy Day" call with rabbis from Judaism's Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements. The second — pegged as "40 Minutes for Health Reform" — is with lay leaders and clergy from Evangelical, Protestant, Catholic and Jewish traditions.

Ads say 'thanks': The drug industry and a consumer advocacy group on Tuesday launched a $3.5 million ad campaign in the home states of 15 senators to thank them for being willing to work across the political divide. The group includes 13 Democrats and two Republicans. The ads from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and Families USA will run through Labor Day. They ask voters to call their senators to say thanks and urge them to keep trying to find a way around partisan gridlock.

Position on health care public option unchanged, White House says 08/19/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 12:06am]

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