Progressive health care reform advocates want a robust public option in any health insurance exchange. Insurance companies don’t like that idea. And Senators love compromises. So it’s not surprising to learn that Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) is trying to find a compromise approach. In particular, the Finance Committee is reportedly looking at a “trigger mechanism” for a public plan: “Under this proposal, the public plan would be created only if private insurance companies had not made meaningful, affordable coverage available to all Americans within several years.”
In the sense that there’s disagreement about this issue and it would be convenient to find a compromise, it’s clear enough why this is appealing. But as Igor Volsky argues, it’s not clear what the merits of this proposal are supposed to be. As he says “Health reform isn’t about protecting private industry.” If a public plan would be brought in after a “trigger,” presumably that’s out of a belief that introducing a public plan would succeed in helping to bring affordable coverage to all. But if a public plan is likely to succeed, then why not just bring it into play? There’s no legitimate need to balance the public interest against the parochial interests of for-profit insurers.
As far as compromises go, this one doesn’t strike me as too horrible. But a really good compromise balances two legitimate considerations. This is just lopping off half the loaf for no real reason.