Gov. Chris Gregoire and four other governors met with President Barack Obama Wednesday to advocate for an overhaul of the nation's health care system.
"He was very receptive," Gregoire said in a conference call with reporters afterwards. "If nothing else, this president is a great listener. He dug in on some of the isssues and wanted to hear more."Gregoire joined Govs. Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Jim Doyle, D-Wis. and Jim Douglas, R-Vt. Obama met with the governors because states have experimented with health care reform. For example, in Washington state Gregoire has worked to expand coverage for children and had set a goal of providing coverage for all youngsters by 2010. That goal was derailed by state budget problems.Gregoire said if a public plan is OK'd it should also be run on the state level. "If a public plan can be developed ... why not?" Gregoire asked. "The fear is that a public plan is step one to government health care. If a public plan plays by the same rules a private plan, what's the concern, what's the threat?
The successes and failures of the state efforts can inform the debate in Congress, Gregoire said. Obama has said he wants to pass a health care reform bill this year.
"The message I delivered was that we really do need health care reform and we need it now," Gregoire said.
She pushed for flexibility on the state level but emphasized that the recession-battered states were in no position to incur additonal costs. "The costs would have to be absorbed at the federal level," Gregoire said.
The idea of an "exchange" where consumers could look at alternative health care plans was discussed. The governors asked that such an exchange be run at the state level and Obama was "clearly receptive" to that, Gregoire said.
"I advocated that we take a hard look a public plan," Gregoire said. The idea of offering a public, government-run health insurance plan is one of the more controversial ideas being considered.
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