Waxman: House Dems Will Not Budge on Public Option

ABC News' Elizabeth Gorman reports:

Despite suggestions from the White House that a public option is a negotiable item, a key House leader said today that the House health care bill will contain a public option plan to compete with private insurers -- and predicted that it will be supported by at least some House Republicans.

“The public option is not a public option to drive out private insurance but to keep private insurance honest,” said House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., speaking with the National Journal Wednesday morning at a breakfast to promote his new book, “The Waxman Report.”

“We want competition, but we don’t want the public plan to win,” he said.

Health care reform legislation, which is expected to also mandate universal coverage, is headed by three House committees -- Energy and Commerce, the Education and Labor, and Ways and Means -- and is expected to be on the House floor by next week.

On Tuesday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told The Wall Street Journal that the public option was negotiable by indicating that he supported a “trigger mechanism,” in which a public plan is “triggered” only when private insurers fail to lower costs.

Emanuel’s comments resulted in a MoveOn.org campaign against the idea, and a letter from President Obama in Moscow that reinforced his support for the public option.

Waxman dismissed the suggestion: “A trigger mechanism doesn’t make any sense,” Waxman said.

Waxman met with Emanuel last night, along with two other key House chairmen.

“He [Emanuel] said that he was not quoted correctly. And he stands by, as does the administration, in their support for the public option,” Waxman told ABC News.

Waxman dodged the question of whether he thought there was a target price for health care reform, and said that CBO estimates on the House health care bill were due out by Friday.

Yesterday, House leaders strongly disputed reports that their bill would top $1 trillion in costs.

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