Politics

Sen. Ben Nelson Expresses Support For Public Plan ‘Trigger’

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) has long opposed a public health insurance option. In May, he expressed concern that “the public plan would be too attractive and would hurt the private insurance plans.” A Nelson spokesman even suggested that the senator would be “building a coalition opposed to the public plan.” And this past week, Nelson said health care reform “implodes” if a public option is included.

But this morning on CNN, Nelson moderated his stance ever-so-slightly. He indicated to host John King that he would support a so-called “trigger” (which would establish a public plan after a certain period of time if the private market fails to control costs):

Well I think he [Obama] has to say that if there’s going to be a public option, it has to be subject to a trigger. In other words, if somehow the private market doesn’t respond the way that it’s supposed to, then it would trigger a public option or a government-run option. But only as a fail-safe backstop to the process.

When I say trigger, out here in Nebraska and the midwest, I don’t mean a hair-trigger. I mean a true trigger — one that would only apply if there isn’t the kind of competition in the business that we believe there would be.

Watch it:

The Obama administration is reportedly in talks with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) on a possible compromise that would include the “trigger.” The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder reported that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been pushing the “trigger” idea internally.

Earlier this week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reiterated her strong commitment to a public plan. She “warned insurance companies that they should accept the Senate health committee proposal that would create a public plan because ‘if they want no public option but a trigger, you can be sure that the trigger will bring on a very robust public option.'”

UPDATE

On separate Sunday political talk shows, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said they opposed a public plan “trigger.”

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UPDATE

,”That’s a terrible idea,” former Gov. Howard Dean has previously said of Nelson’s plan. Insurance companies “will just change their behavior until the trigger runs out and go back to how they were.”

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