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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Snowe's Public Option "Trigger"

Robert Reich says the public option is slipping away:

The Public Option, Smokescreens, Olympia Snowe, and What You Need to Do Right Now, by Robert Reich: I'ved poked around Washington today, talking with friends on the Hill who confirm the worst: Big Pharma and Big Insurance are gaining ground in their campaign to kill the public option in the emerging health care bill. ...

You know why, of course. They don't want a public option that would compete with private insurers and use its bargaining power to negotiate better rates with drug companies. ... To Pharma and Insurance, "unfair" is anything that undermines their profits. So they're pulling out all the stops...

Enter Olympia Snowe. Her move is important, not because she's Republican (the Senate needs only 51 votes to pass this) but because she's well-respected and considered non-partisan, and therefore offers some cover to Democrats that may need it. Last night Snowe hosted a private meeting between members and staffers about a new proposal Pharma and Insurance are floating, and apparently she's already gained the tentative support of several Democrats (including Ron Wyden and Thomas Carper). Under Snowe's proposal, the public option would kick in years from now, but it would be triggered only if insurance companies fail to bring down healthcare costs and expand coverage in he meantime.

What's the catch? First, these conditions are likely to be achieved by other pieces of the emerging legislation... If it ever comes to it, Pharma and Insurance can argue that their mere participation fulfills their part of the bargain, so no public option will need to be triggered. Second, as Pharma and Insurance well know, "years from now" in legislative terms means never. There will never be a better time than now to enact a public option. ...

Much the same dynamic is occurring in the House. Two members who had originally supported single payer told me that Pharma and Insurance have launched the same strategy there, and many House members are looking to see what happens in the Senate. Snow's "trigger" is already buzzing among members.

All this will be decided within days or weeks. And once those who want to kill the public option without fingerprints converge on a proposal -- Snowe's "trigger" or any other -- it's going to be very hard to undue. The White House must insist on a genuine public option. And you ... must insist as well. ...

    Posted by on Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 12:48 AM in Economics, Health Care, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (44)

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