WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- A "public option" touted by President Barack Obama as part of his healthcare reform efforts is not an "essential element," a U.S. health official said Sunday.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, appearing Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," hinted that Obama's preference for using taxpayer seed money to establish a government-run health plan to compete with private plans may be negotiable.
Citing health reform negotiations ongoing in the Senate Finance Committee, and the possibility that a "co-op" rather than a "public" option may emerge from the group, Sebelius said, "What we don't know is exactly what the Senate Finance Committee is likely to come up. They've been more focused on a not-for-profit co-op as a competitor as opposed to a straight government-run program.
"I think what's important is choice and competition. And I'm convinced at the end of the day, the plan will have both of those. But that is not the essential element."
Sebelius said the real focus of the healthcare reform should be providing "coverage for all Americans, lowering the crushing cost for everyone, making sure that we have new rules for insurance companies."