WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made clear Thursday that a controversial government-run insurance plan will be included in the House version of President Obama's overhaul of the health care system.
At her weekly meeting with reporters, the California Democrat said Thursday she thought the health insurance industry had taken great pains to demonize her plan of a so-called "public option," where consumers can purchase coverage from the federal government.
Although the public option remains unpopular with business groups, conservatives and some moderate Democrats, Pelosi said it is imperative to help middle-class families afford insurance -- and will be included in the strongest form possible in the House's health care bill.
Pelosi pulled no punches in her criticism of the health insurance industry as she argued support is growing for a public option.
In fact at one point, she compared the insurance industry to a "lion's den," referring to the industry funding a study and ad campaign to attack a health care bill in the Senate.
"They can't take it. They can't take the competition," Pelosi said of private health insurers."
Pelosi also suggested that the health insurance industry was over-the-top in its criticism of lawmakers who would vote for her public plan.
"You lose your teeth, your hair and your sight if you vote for the public option," Pelosi said facetiously.
The speaker also placed many of the ills now facing the nation's health care system at the foot of the insurance companies.
"It's clear where the problem has been. It's well known to the public that the problem is with the health insurance companies," Pelosi said.
Earlier this year, the speaker also took aim at the insurance industry when she described it as a "villain."
The House and Senate hope to debate their respective health care reform plans on the floor late this month or early next month.
Fox News' Chad Pegram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.