House Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicted yesterday that a government-run insurance program would be in the final version of a health-care overhaul.
"We'll have a public option at the end of the day," Pelosi said in a brief interview after a private tour of an emergency room at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. "The cost savings are too huge to ignore."
She said she continued to believe that a health-care overhaul must have public insurance in it to win approval of the Democrats who control the House, even as other party leaders have suggested it may pass regardless.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that having a "public option" would squeeze $100 billion in costs from the system over 10 years because of competition with private insurers, Pelosi said.
A compromise proposal in the Senate that would set up nonprofit insurance cooperatives in lieu of a government plan would not be as effective, she said.
In an appearance with U.S. Reps. Bob Brady, Chaka Fattah and Allyson Schwartz, all Democrats from Philadelphia and the suburbs, Pelosi said that a government-run insurance plan was needed to "hold the insurance companies to the reforms we have in the bill," including a ban on denying coverage for preexisting conditions and a prohibition of imposing lifetime caps on coverage.
The appearance was designed to highlight the need for passage of legislation to control health-care costs and expand access to insurance coverage. It came one day after President Obama appeared on nearly every Sunday network news show to tout his push for an overhaul of the health-care system.
Pelosi predicted that reform legislation would pass Congress within weeks, noting wide areas of agreement among the diverse groups of Democrats who control both chambers.
"This is what we've been building up to our whole lives in public service," Pelosi said. "This is a joy, and we will have a bill and it will be great and it will make a difference in the lives of people."