Pelosi talks health care at city summit

September 3, 2009 11:48:22 AM PDT
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi insists health care reform will include a public option to compete with private insurance coverage. Pelosi reinforced that message Wednesday morning while speaking at a health care summit sponsored by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

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Pelosi is careful to say that a public option will be included in the House version of the bill. But she is not willing to talk much about the Senate side or what the final legislation will include.

The first point Pelosi addressed this morning was that something must be done to reform health care.

"The status quo is unsustainable," Pelosi said.

The biggest obstacle to what the speaker termed a "historic opportunity" is the publicly funded alternative to the health insurance industry, commonly referred to as the public option.

"The bill that will pass the House of Representatives will have a public option in it," Pelosi said.

But not all of the Democratic leadership is so certain.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has been quoted saying he wants a public option, but he also wants a health care bill that will pass both the House and the Senate.

But Pelosi is not wavering.

"The public option is the best way to keep the insurance companies honest," Pelosi said.

The other big obstacle is the cost.

Opponents rallied Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio saying they are afraid the legislation will stick taxpayers for billions.

"And the government's going to pick it up or the taxpayers are going to pick it up and that's not right," protester Cheryl Wells said.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the House bill will add $239 billion over 10 years and the Senate bill could tack on as much as $597 billion.

Tuesday, at an appearance in San Francisco, ABC7 asked Pelosi about those budget office projections.

"CBO only measures what it costs the government, it doesn't measure what reductions there are for businesses, for individuals, for our economy, it doesn't measure prevention, for example, which we know reduces cost," Pelosi said.

Pelosi said the details need to be worked out between the House and Senate versions of the legislation.

Wednesday, ABC7 asked her if she thinks it is time for the president to take a stronger role in shaping the bill.

"With this array of great prospects that we have now I'm sure the president will weigh in tell us the direction from his perspective that he wants to sign into law," Pelosi said.

Two hours after Pelosi said we would be hearing from the president, the White House announced President Obama will address a joint session of Congress on health care next Wednesday.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell quickly responded, saying the White House taking charge will not make a difference.

The president's address to Congress will be televised live, as well as streamed live on ABC7NEWS.COM. To read more about Pelosi's encounter with a Fox News producer over elevator music, click here.

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