U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen said this morning that he supports a public health insurance option as one method of achieving transparency in the medical marketplace, but said he's willing to consider other options to drive down costs in a final health care reform bill.
"The name of the game really is to fix what's broken and keep what we already have," Kagen said in a teleconference with Wisconsin reporters. "That is our common goal."
Kagen said he still supports a public option -- what he called "America's Choice" -- as a method for driving down costs through increased transparency. But he stressed that no specific plan for a public option has been put down in writing yet, and that "the devil's always in the details."
As President Obama prepares to address a joint session of Congress on health care tonight, the Appleton Democrat said he hopes the president's speech will incorporate his concerns as a physician of 33 years, as well as "all of the issues that I heard in Northeast Wisconsin during the August work period." Kagen's health care town halls were among the most contentious in the state, with his chaotic initial appearance in Green Bay generating national headlines.
Kagen said he's working to keep items with broad public support in the legislation, including price transparency, eliminating pre-existing conditions, and creating a standard health coverage plan for every insurer. Kagen also said he hopes Obama will address personal responsibility, citing obesity and smoking as major factors in American health care costs.
Kagen said he hasn't reviewed the president's speech yet, but said he has been in contact with the White House regarding his ideas for what to include in a bill. Among those are tort reform and an end to the anti-trust exemption for insurance companies.
"They can discuss prices and manipulate markets like baseball teams can," Kagen said of current insurance policy.
Regardless of what Obama says tonight, the longtime allergist said reform must get done this time around.
"The White House has said we're in the 8th inning," Kagen said. "I'm more optimistic. I think we're in about the 6th inning."