Pelosi: Adding government-run 'public option' to Obamacare 'on the table'

"Everything is on the table — let me just put it that way," said the House speaker, regarding the potential expansion of Obamacare.

Updated: March 25, 2021 - 11:30am

Marking the 11th anniversary of Obamacare's passage, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a push to add a government-run public option to Obamacare is "on the table" for Democrats in Congress.

A federally-run public option proposal failed to garner enough support when Obamacare was originally drafted in 2009. It would have created a government-run insurance agency to compete with private insurers. Republicans and moderate Democrats objected to the idea at the time, arguing that it would eventually put private insurers out of business. Obamacare passed in March 2010 without Republican votes.

"I want a public option. I don't know that we get that in this bill," Pelosi said on Tuesday, referring to the upcoming massive infrastructure package that House Democrats are working on, which is expected to contain some climate change and health care measures. 

"But this is an ongoing conversation of improvement of advances that we can make as we celebrate the Affordable Care Act," said Pelosi. "I wanted a public option 11 years ago. I didn't succeed then. We had it in the House. We couldn't get it in the Senate. We'll see where we go from here, but everything is on the table — let me just put it that way. Everything is on the table."

President Biden campaigned on creating a federally-run public health care option in addition to the Obamacare marketplace exchanges already in place. A formal legislative proposal has not been released yet.

"We have to be agnostic about the choices we make," Pelosi continued. "What is it that does the most for the American people, at the least cost to them, making it accessible and affordable?

"It's not about just healthcare in America. It's about the good health of the American people. And that goes beyond, shall we say, the doctor's office. It's about housing, and it's about clean air and clean water and all the other aspects of the well-being of the American people. So we see the strength of our country, not only in our military might, but in the health and well-being of the American people."