Former CMS Official Who Implemented ObamaCare: Public Option ‘A Huge Mistake’

Obamacare sign is seen on the UniVista Insurance company office on December 15, 2015 in Miami, Florida.
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The former Obama administration official responsible for implementing Obamacare and the website says the idea of attempting to “fix” President Obama’s signature healthcare law by adding a public option would be “a huge mistake” that would add “more bureaucracy and administrative cost” to healthcare.

“I think that the public option debate or even the consideration of yet another government-oriented program would be a huge mistake,” said Marilyn Tavenner, who headed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and was also responsible for the highly problematic website.

Tavenner resigned her government position in 2015 to become CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans – the national trade association representing the health insurance companies.

As a panelist at a conference on healthcare policy sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Tavenner spoke in response to moderator Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s executive vice president of government affairs, reports

Josten noted the “ongoing challenges” of Obamacare’s exchanges, and the fact that some insurance carriers have lost money and are pulling out of the exchanges, resulting in “limited choice available to people.”

“I think I can speak for all of the panelists up here that we would suggest it’s unfortunate that the opponents of the ACA seem to be doing victory laps around that situation, pointing to the inherent flaws of the law,” Josten said.

“Our concern, and I think that of many in the room today, is the reconsideration of the public option is one of the outgrowths of that kind of discussion,” he continued, asking the panelists how to “shore up” Obamacare’s marketplaces.

“I think that the public option debate or even the consideration of yet another government-oriented program would be a huge mistake, and I’ll try to explain why,” Tavenner said.

She continued:

Our history has been as a country – when we created Medicare and Medicaid it certainly went through contentious back and forth and even today, 50 years later, we make – some would argue – too many updates to Medicare and Medicaid annually.

But it was never, let’s approve a program, and when it gets in trouble, let’s just let it get in trouble. That’s not a realistic way to support any type of program. So over the years Medicare, Medicaid changes were made both at the state and federal level to protect the programs and ensure their growth.

Tavenner explained that all federal programs have to be tweaked, and that fixing Obamacare is no different.

“We’re at that same point with the exchanges,” Tavenner continued, “and if you think about the amount of energy and effort that’s gone on with everybody in this room over the last six years, the idea that we’d take on yet another public program when our answer lies in stabilizing the product that we have.”

“And we have smart people in Congress. We have smart people in the administration,” she added. “There are ways to sit down and work this out.”

Tavenner, however, acknowledged that Obamacare’s troubles will likely continue.

“If the program hasn’t stabilized in three years, it’s going to need some additional relief,” she said. “So I just think we need to solve the problem that we have versus chasing yet another program – adding more bureaucracy and administrative cost to the system.”

About 1.4 million Americans are expected to lose their health insurance coverage in 2017 due to insurance companies fleeing Obamacare.


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