‘Trigger’ on Government-Run Health Care Gun


Senate lawmakers, still hoping to forge an 11th-hour bipartisan agreement on health care reform, are floating the idea of a bill that would create a set of benchmarks that private insurance agencies must meet to avoid triggering a government-run health insurance plan.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, a member of the “Gang of Six” Senate negotiators who met Friday in hopes of brokering a deal to increase access and affordability of health insurance, has proposed creating such a “trigger.” * Sen. Snowe R-Maine should change over to the Democrat side. She votes more with them according to govtrack.us Sen.Snowe voting record

No benchmarks have been offered yet, but they could be drawn from goals stated in the House bill that passed on party lines before the summer recess, as well as objectives outlined by President Obama, the Office of Management and Budget and other principles put forward on both sides of the aisle.

Under such a compromise, if agreed-upon benchmarks are not met, then that would pull the trigger on government-run insurance. Lawmakers need to decide how fast a so-called public option would be instituted, how many people it would cover and how it would affect private insurers and consumers.

The goal is to find common ground for Republicans and some Democrats who got an earful this summer from constituents vehemently opposed to a government-managed health care system.

The town halls were so heated that they may have convinced Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., who faces a tough re-election next year, to come out this week and say the government-run plan is too expensive.

But even before the town halls, several Democrats announced they could not support the so-called “public option.”

Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has been a solid “no” vote for months. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has routinely called it a deal-breaker for him. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut has been a long-time opponent, and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the Budget Committee chairman, is not afraid to call the current House bill doomed in the Senate. Even Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has said more affordable alternatives are available. 

Several other Senate Democrats have also expressed misgivings or announced they could vote either way, depending on cost. They include Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware, Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Bill Nelson of Florida and Evan Bayh of Indiana.

Obama knows reforms are in trouble, which is why he’s giving a speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. Democrats say they expect him to tell them that if opposition to a government-run insurance program jeopardizes other reforms, dump it and pass the rest of the package.

Those circumstances have opened the door for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to say a trigger alternative to a mandatory, government-run public health insurance option is something to consider. That’s a sea change for Pelosi, who insisted as recently as this week that a so-called “public option” is essential. * Funny how Pelosi backs down so fast after just saying there would not be a vote if “Public Option” was taken out.

But the test for the “Gang of Six” Senate negotiators is to figure out what the triggers would be.

Baucus on Friday offered few details after the group’s telephone conference.

“We agree we need to take control of health care costs and make health insurance affordable for families and small businesses. We agree all Americans should be able to choose — and be able to afford — a quality health care plan. And, we agree health care reform should be fiscally responsible and not add to the deficit,” he said in a statement. * This has already been laid out point by point by John Mackey of  Whole Foods (** See his plan below)

Not a lot of time is left to figure out those issues if the committee tries to stick to Baucus’ Sept. 15 deadline for a Finance Committee vote on a bill that has yet to be written.

**Please explain to me HOW can they VOTE on a bill that HAS YET TO BE WRITTEN?? Is this not what all the Tea Parties are all about? Can these Senators not hear???

 And the challenges for that deadline are considerable given that one primary complaint among town-hall audiences was that few of the lawmakers preparing to vote “yes” had read the 1,000-page House bill.

** Mackey’s Health Care Plan**

• Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs). The combination of high-deductible health insurance and HSAs is one solution that could solve many of our health-care problems. For example, Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members who work 30 hours or more per week (about 89% of all team members) for our high-deductible health-insurance plan. We also provide up to $1,800 per year in additional health-care dollars through deposits into employees’ Personal Wellness Accounts to spend as they choose on their own health and wellness.

Money not spent in one year rolls over to the next and grows over time. Our team members therefore spend their own health-care dollars until the annual deductible is covered (about $2,500) and the insurance plan kicks in. This creates incentives to spend the first $2,500 more carefully. Our plan’s costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction.

• Equalize the tax laws so that that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.

• Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. We should all have the legal right to purchase health insurance from any insurance company in any state and we should be able use that insurance wherever we live. Health insurance should be portable.

• Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance by billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying.

• Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.

• Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost. How many people know the total cost of their last doctor’s visit and how that total breaks down? What other goods or services do we buy without knowing how much they will cost us?

• Enact Medicare reform. We need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and enact reforms that create greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility.

• Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program

 **As always the parts in red are my thoughts. Please feel free to leave yours.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. excellent blog post, made me think, thanks

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