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Top Health Care Lobbyists Push Back on Idea of Public Option

The leaders of three of D.C.’s top health care advocacy groups suggested they’ll push hard against a public option at a Chamber of Commerce event Tuesday on the Affordable Care Act.

Leaders of trade groups representing insurers, hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry speaking together on a panel all rejected a public option, and said that officials should instead opt to strengthen the exchanges as they are. Democrats in recent months have pointed to creating a public option in at least some regions of the country that are experiencing a lack of competition on the Affordable Care Act markets.

But the trade groups think there are more steps to be done to strengthen the current insurance marketplace before looking to a larger government-run system.

“We sure think that we need to work to make [the exchanges] viable before we even give any consideration to going to a public option,” said Rick Pollack, the president and CEO of the American Hospital Association.

Steve Ubl, the president and CEO and the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, echoed that sentiment, adding that lawmakers rejected a public option during the passage of Obamacare.

Marilyn Tavenner, the president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, pointed to the formulation of other government health programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and said they required legislative improvements after the initial programs were launched. That still hasn’t happened with Obamacare, she said.

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

“There are ways to sit down and work this out,” she added.