How many more people have to die before Olympia Snowe stops playing trigger games?
Brian Beutler reports that the moderate Maine republican is trying to revive the idea of tying the public option in health care reform to a bad-outcome trigger.
This idea sort of came and went a few weeks ago, but some legislators just can't let it go. According to the Associated Press, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)--a potentially key moderate on the Senate Finance Committee--hasn't forsworn signing on to a health reform bill that includes a public option. But she's holding out to see it affixed to a "trigger mechanism," which would, in theory, give insurance companies a years-long window to lower costs on their own and only "trigger" the public option if they failed to do so.
"If you establish a public option at the forefront that goes head-to-head and competes with the private health insurance market ... the public option will have significant price advantages," Snowe said. But this was her argument against making the public option available as soon as the bill becomes law.
Steve Benen comments:
It's a reminder of why this policy debate has been so frustrating -- a few too many of those involved believe we must avoid positive developments.
As you've probably heard, a public option would improve the system by lowering costs, expanding access, and using competition to improve efficiency. Those who like the idea of a "trigger" argue that if we pass a reform package and private insurers can lower costs, expand access, and improve efficiency on their own, we wouldn't need a public option. It's better, they say, to wait for the system to get really awful before utilizing a public option to make things better.
The problem should be obvious: if proponents of such an idea realize that a public option would necessarily improve the overall system -- and they must, otherwise there would be no need for the trigger to kick in when things got even worse -- then why deliberately delay implementation of the part of the policy that lawmakers already realize would help?
Or, put another way, if Snowe knows a public option is a good idea, there's no reason to push it off to some arbitrary date in the future, as the system deteriorates in the interim.
Which is worse, that Snowe and the other opponents of a public option have been bought off by the private insurers, or that they are so out of touch with real life in the HMO ghetto that they truly believe American health is not bad enough?