House Democratic Leader Says ‘Yes’ to Government-Run Health Care

By Matt Cover | May 12, 2009 | 7:59 PM EDT

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.)

Washington ( – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that he supports the creation of a government-run health insurance program as part of any effort at health-care reform, joining President Barack Obama in calling for a federally-run health-care entity.

At his weekly pen-and-pad briefing for reporters, Hoyer told that he supported the president’s health-reform plan.

“Yes,” Hoyer added, when specifically asked if he supported a government-run health-care option.

The Democratic Leader was less direct, however, when asked whether he would vote against a bill that didn’t include a government plan, saying he didn’t know whether he would vote against a good bill that left the government out.

“I certainly wouldn’t say that I wouldn’t vote for a bill that didn’t include it if I thought it was a good bill otherwise,” Hoyer told

Hoyer, however, opened the door to endorsing myriad compromise options currently before the Senate, including one offered by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), which Hoyer said should be considered.

“Let me just say that Sen. Schumer has come up with a proposal worthy of consideration,” the Maryland Democrat said, adding that fears expressed by many conservatives that a public plan would simply drive private insurers out of business should not be dismissed.

“The concern about the public plans (expressed) by the private (insurance) plans is that it will be a stalking horse essentially driving them out of business. That’s a legitimate concern,” Hoyer said. “Senator Schumer’s suggestion is, ‘Look, let’s make the public plan and the private plans have a level playing field.’”

Hoyer, meanwhile, reminded reporters that the president himself had said that a government plan was necessary to ensure choice and provide industry with minimum standards.

“The president indicated that he thought a public plan alternative was appropriate from his perspective to ensure that: a) there’s an alternative available to people and b) that there’s sort of a fair incentive for the private sector to bring costs down and make plans accessible.”

Schumer’s proposal is one of three different types of government-run health insurance plans being batted around by the Senate Finance Committee, which is taking the lead on health-care reform legislation. 

The first plan is essentially an expansion of Medicare, which would participate in the planned national health insurance exchange alongside qualifying private plans.

This completely federal plan would be run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and would be subject to the same rules as private plans except that, because it would be run by the government, it would not be required to remain fiscally solvent.

A second plan would involve a government-established insurance agency run by regional, third party administrators who would be required to report to HHS, but would be allowed to establish regional insurance networks and negotiate their own payment schemes, while remaining fiscally solvent.

The third government option is to mandate that each state establish its own public health plan in accordance with federal coverage and availability guidelines. 

A fourth option, favored by conservatives, is to have no government plan at all, choosing instead to expand coverage through a reformed and better-policed private market.