Olympia Snowe: Trigger Is ‘Not On The Table And It Won’t Be’ In Senate Finance Bill

Earlier this month, the White House was building support for a scaled-back health care bill that would trigger a public health insurance option if private health insurers did not substantially reduce health care costs. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) — a member of the Senate Finance Committee and the so-called Gang-of-six tasked with producing a bipartisan health care bill — had floated the idea and was negotiating the option with the White House.

But this morning on CBS’s Face The Nation, Snowe suggested that a ‘trigger’ did not generate any bipartisan support. “It’s not on the table and it won’t be,” in the final Senate Finance Committee bill, Snowe said. “We’ll be using the co-op as an option at this point as a means for injecting competition in the process.”

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A trigger proposal would activate a public option into the Exchange if private insurers failed to lower premiums by X% over Y years and — if triggered — may lead to greater cost reductions than Sen. Kent Conrad’s (D-ND) proposal to establish a network of consumer driven health care cooperatives.

As Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) explained this morning on ABC’s This Week, “people talk about a cooperative plan. Health co-ops. And I called the head of the national association really early, and he said, it’s great on water, it’s great on farm, it’s great on electricity, etc, but it really doesn’t work on health care. There are fewer than 20 in the country and there are only two that really work. And one of them is in Washington, the other one is in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And both of these senators from Washington are voting for a public option. So it hasn’t had a future, it goes back to the 30s and 40s, and I don’t think you can take the chance. You have to start a national thing all the way up.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) is expected to release the official draft of the committee’s bill on Wednesday. Most observers believe that it may be the only legislation that could pass the senate through regular procedure. On Fox News Sunday, however, Sen Orrin Hatch (R-UT) — also a member of the committee — said, “Even with all the work that I give my fellow senators credit for in the Finance Committee…I just do not believe that they’re going to have the Republican support on this type of approach.” Snowe refused to say if she would cast the lone Republican vote for the committee’s health legislation.