Robert Reich has some concerns about Senator Olympia Snowe's 'trigger' health care proposal:
Her idea (evidently encouraged by Rahm Emanuel, the President's chief of staff) is to hold off on any public option. Give the private insurance companies a period of time -- say, five years -- within which to make changes that extend coverage to more people and also drive down long-term costs. If those goals for coverage and cost aren't met by end of the five-year grace period, kaboom: the public option is triggered -- which will force such changes on the insurance companies.
In principle it sounds like a good idea. But in the reality of Washington D.C. …
The problem is twofold. First, it's impossible to design airtight goals for coverage and cost reductions that won't be picked over by five thousand lobbyists and as many lawyers and litigators even if, at the end of the grace period, it's apparent to everyone else that the goals aren't met. Washington is a vast cesspool of well-paid specialists who know how to stop anything resembling a "trigger." Believe me, they will.
Second, any controversial proposal with some powerful support behind it that gets delayed -- for five years or three years or whenever -- is politically dead.
President Obama has remained noncommittal about what the health care reform legislation should look like by the time it reaches his desk. But if Reich is right, Obama's refusal to take sides puts him firmly in the camp opposing the public option. If Obama really cares about the public option, he needs to speak up now. And if he doesn't, he should say it and be done. Health care reform is too critical an issue, and the President is too critical a player to sit on the sidelines.