Culver reluctant to embrace “public option”

UPDATE:  Radio Iowa story, with audio from today's news conference.

Iowa's Democratic governor is urging congress to pass a health care reform package by the end of this year, but Governor Chet Culver is reluctant to express support for a "public option" that would let Americans choose from a private insurance plan or a government-run plan similar to the policy for members of congress.

"That may or may not be part of the final agreement," Culver says. "…The bottom line is we need health care reform in America."

Many rate Des Moines, Iowa, along with London and New Hartford, Connecticut, among the top  centers for insurance companies in the world and a so-called "public option" in a national health care reform plan might hurt the private insurers based in Iowa.

"There are a lot of different ways to do this and at this point it's clearly a federal challenge," Culver says, "and I believe they need to come up with a bill and get it to the president's desk by the end of the year."

PREVIOUSLY POSTED: Governor Chet Culver held a news conference this morning at Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines to talk (again) about ensuring all Iowa children are covered by some sort of health care policy.  During the Q&A with reporters after his remarks, Culver was asked about the public option being debated at the federal level. The transcript of that exchange is below.  It starts with Culver's response to a question about the state effort to insure more kids. The "Senator Harkin" Culver refers to is Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines who serves in the state senate and is part of a White House-created panel of state legislators discussing national health care reform.

Culver: "We're going to do the very best we can to honor our committment to kids and so far, if you look at our record, we have now expanded access to about 45,000 families, additional children, in the last 30 months."

Kathie Obradovich of The Des Moines Register:  "Governor, do you think that the federal health care reform effort has to include a public option in order to give Iowa what it needs to sustain its goals in health care reform?"

Culver: "You know, we had that discussion at the health care reform forum that I hosted in conjunction and along with some officials with the White House.  That may or may not be part of the final agreement and I think to Senator Hatch's point, the bottom line is we need to, we need health care reform in America so how we get there exactly…"

Obradovich:  (Interjecting) "So do you think something else other than a full-fledged public option could actually do that job?"

Culver: "Well, there are a lot of different ways that we can reform health care and I believe the president has provided really important leadership to bring people to the table, to talk about the different ways that we can accomplish this reform effort.  Senator Dodd has done a very good job I think as well on the senate side and I think time will tell in terms of what kind of agreements and what type of compromises can be made." 

Obradovich: "Are you committed to a public plan that you think could be viable?"

Culver: "There are a lot of different ways to do this and at this point it's clearly a federal challenge and I believe they need to come up with a bill and get it to the president's desk by the end of the year."

O. Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa: "Are you reluctant to embrace a public option given the impact it might have on Iowa's insurance industry?" 

Culver: "No, I am focused on doing everything I can under the current laws and rules to expand health care access and as Senator Hatch said we are going to need some help from our friends in Washington to reform the overall system."

Another reporter asked a question seeking more detailed numbers on how many Iowa children are uninsured, then as I tried to ask a follow-up to clarify Culver's stand on a public option, Culver said, "thank you very much," and ended the news conference.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. jacksmith says

    The healthcare reform bill released by the House Of Representatives is an excellent bill as I understand it. It’s a bill with a strong, robust, government-run public option, and an intelligent, reasonable initial funding plan to cover almost all of the American people. It is carefully written, and thoughtfully constructed, informed, prudent and wise. This bill will save trillions of dollars, and millions of your lives.
    This is the type of bill that all Americans can feel good about. And this is the type of bill that has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of healthcare for all Americans. Rich, middle class and poor a like. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and all other party affiliations. This bill has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life of every American.
    The house healthcare bill should be viewed as the minimum GOLD STANDARD by which all other proposed healthcare legislation should be judged. All supporters of true high quality healthcare reform should now place all your support behind this healthcare reform bill released by the United States House Of Representatives, as the minimum Gold standard for healthcare reform in America.
    You should all now support this bill with all your might, and all of your unrelenting tenacity. This healthcare bill is a VERY, VERY GOOD! bill for all of the American people. Fight tooth, and nail for every bit of this bill if you have too. Be aggressive, creative, and relentless for this bill.
    From this time forward, go BIGGER and DEEPER with the American people every day until passage of healthcare reform with a robust, government-run public option.
    FIGHT!! like your life and the lives of your loved ones depends on it. BECAUSE IT DOES!
    God Bless You
    Jack Smith — Working Class