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Using the trigger to make a horrible idea less horrible

October 30, 2009 - Mike Maneval

The Democratic caucuses of the U.S. House and Senate now each have health care legislation to debate on the floor, but of course the final package hinges on compromises - compromises within each body to get a reform package through and then between the two bodies to reconcile the differences in how the two chambers approach the issue.

David Lightman, Washington, D.C., correspondent for McClatchy newspapers, reports Friday that a trigger, "where the public option only would be permitted if private insurers fail to lower costs" is gaining momentum. The trigger is an idea that has been kicked around for weeks, with The Hill, a D.C. newspaper, reporting back in early September that Maine Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman are more receptive to the concept than to a public option without it.

Without addressing the public option, an idea with many flaws and many merits, itself, I believe representatives and senators should weigh a different application for the trigger: the consumer mandate.

The current House proposal, the Heritage Foundation says, contains another idea that has been kicked around even longer than the trigger, the idea the government should mandate consumers purchase health coverage. It's an idea with many flaws and few, if any, merits - a part of me is loathe to even suggest that "triggering" the mandates or only permitting mandates if and after consumer costs are reduced first is an acceptable alternative.

Until I consider to what it would be an alternative: A policy of rewarding the staggering increases in consumer bills - 6 percent a year for the past three years according to, nearly twice the rate of inflation - by compelling Americans to buy an increasingly overpriced product. That's an option that is simply unacceptable.


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