As Obama Prepares to Go to Virginia, Deeds is Open to Opting Out of Public Option

By Jacqueline Klingebiel

Oct 21, 2009 6:02am

One week before Barack Obama reinjects himself into the Virginia governor's race, Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate, said that he would "certainly" consider taking his state out of a government insurance option if given the chance. ABC’s Teddy Davis has the story: The idea of creating a government health plan which would compete with private insurers is now backed by 57 percent of Americans, according to the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll. But as Virginia prepares to choose a new governor on Nov. 3rd, the public option is not being embraced by either Republican Bob McDonnell or Democrat Creigh Deeds. "I don't think the public option is necessary in any plan and I think Virginia–certainly, I would certainly consider, opting out if that were available to Virginia," said Deeds.
Deeds, who is scheduled to campaign with President Obama next week, has long described himself as being open to the idea of an across-the-board public option without being wedded to the concept– a point which he reiterated during his face-off with McDonnell and a position which is in step with the Obama administration's talking points. Tuesday's debate was the first time, however, that Deeds has been asked for his position on a new proposal by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., which would create a government insurance plan and then give states the choice of opting out of it. Schumer's proposal is a more liberal variation on Sen. Tom Carper's, D-Del., idea of letting states opt into a public plan. By saying not only that he does not consider a public option to be "required' but also that he would "certainly" consider taking Virginia out of a government plan if given the chance, Deeds sounded a more skeptical note on the issue than he has in the past.
The added nuance to the Deeds position is a potentially risky one given that it comes at a time when he is struggling to energize the voters who made Barack Obama the first Democrat to carry Virginia in a presidential election since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. While Deeds said he would consider taking Virginia out of the public option, McDonnell went even further in disavowing the concept. Asked if he would want Virginia to opt out of a government health plan, McDonnell unambiguously said "yes". While not embracing the public option, Deeds is proposing two measures which he thinks will help lower costs and expand health care coverage. First, he wants Virginia to allow small businesses to pool together to purchase insurance. Second, he wants Virginia to provide low interest loans to people who have lost their jobs and need help paying for insurance that they used to receive from their employer. For his part, McDonnell spoke out in favor of medical savings accounts, better preventive care, a low cap on medical malpractice awards, and giving small employers access to group insurance. Tuesday's debate, which took place in Salem, Va., was the fourth and final face-off between McDonnell and Deeds. The debate was shown in southwestern Virginia by WSLS, the NBC affiliate in Roanoke. It was televised nationally by C-SPAN 3.

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