September 13th, 2009
10:58 AM ET
12 years ago

Key senator rejects 'trigger' for public health insurance option

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A moderate Republican who has previously broken with her party to support President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill said Sunday that she does not support the idea of using a so called “trigger” on the public health insurance option as part of health care reform legislation.

Asked on CNN’s State of the Union if the use of the trigger would make inclusion of the public option more acceptable, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, unequivocally replied “no.”

“The problem with trigger is it just delays the public option,” Collins told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “because the people who are going to be making the determination about whether the market is competitive enough, want the public option.”

New Hampshire Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen refused to answer directly when asked whether Collins’ position indicated that President Obama should either not fight for inclusion of the public option in the final bill or, alternatively, pursue a legislative strategy that relied solely on Democratic votes for health care reform.

“I think we’re going to have a bill that has significant bipartisan input regardless of how the votes come out,” Shaheen told King.

The Democrat, who supports the public option, also said Sunday that it was important to stay focused on the big picture when it comes to health care reform. “We want to get competition in the health insurance market. We want to make sure that people who can afford health insurance are going to have an affordable option that they can use. We want to improve health outcomes for people. And we want to, long term, lower the cost of health care,” Shaheen said.

The use of a trigger on the public option has emerged as a compromise position in recent weeks that might allow moderates in both parties to support health care reform while appeasing liberals in the House Democratic Caucus who strongly favor the inclusion of a public insurance plan.

The trigger proposal has been supported by Sen. Olympia Snowe, another moderate Republican from Maine who is also involved in bipartisan negotiations on the Senate Finance Committee. Snowe has reportedly discussed her proposal directly with the White House and the Obama administration appears to be courting Snowe in particular to give the Senate bill nominal bipartisanship. Snowe, like Collins, broke with Republicans earlier this year to support Obama’s massive stimulus package.

Updated: 10:58 a.m.

soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Senator Collins is absolutely correct. The "trigger" thing was always intended to be a back-door way of tricking Americans into a "public option" a majority of us do not want.

    If nothing else, it demonstrates how thoroughly contemptuous the far Left is of the intelligence of American citizens. Did they really think no one would notice their intended trickery?

    September 13, 2009 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  2. Eddie M.

    How is a moderate Republican a "key senator" when the Dems hold a 60 seat majority? Just sayin.

    September 13, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  3. Bill

    Good for Sen Collins. She finally saw the trigger as nothing more than a political trick.

    September 13, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  4. John Smith

    Right now the only people who care about the public option are those who do not have health insurance. The major resistance from seniors ironically stems from the fact that they have Medicare (a public option). Just try to get rid of Medicare and see how quickly they will support that public health insurance option. The government will only "take over health care" if the private insurance companies refuse to operate at reduced profits. So the question is, are we willing to let the costs of health insurance and medications continue to rise at your expense? Does ANYONE out there really believe that they will voluntarily cut their profits? If so, why are they fighting the reform effort? Come on folks!

    September 13, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  5. D. Tree

    Republicans prove every day they have no intention of bipartisanship.

    Democrats should just pass a strong bill without the GOP.

    A Public Option will save the most money, and isn't that the goal anyway?

    Republicans claim they care about taxpayers, but their actions here are more about supporting the insurance industry.

    September 13, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  6. g-man

    Confusing little blurb. So she is in favor of a public option? She says the public wants the public option.

    September 13, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  7. Dan, TX

    Eliminate Medicare.

    Make it Illegal to a charge different price for the same plan regardless of age/health.

    Make it a requirement that people can retain their insurance plan after they leave their employer.

    Make everyone buy insurance or if they refuse make them sign a waiver allowing the hospitals and Doctors to deny treatment – even life-saving treatment – if they don't have the money to pay for the procedures. No proof of payment – no treatment.

    September 13, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  8. Vincent Petrosino

    Let's get this cleared up NOW! There is no other way to keep the health insurance companies from gauging people and earning huge profits than with a public option. Just like Wall Street, health insurance companies have proven they cannot regulate themselves. The GOP is bought and paid for by these companies. A "trigger" is a good compromise because it gives these companies time to clean up their act or take the consequences. Susan Collins has become a total disappointment. The Dems need to move on and get it done!

    September 13, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  9. Kevin

    Of course she does. The Repulicans want nothing more than a couple of band-aid fixes that will improve the bottom lines of health insurance companies, investors and perhaps some cardiologists.

    They simply do not want to introduce change on the scale that is needed to bring true health care reform to a chronically ill system.

    For this reason, they did not win the presidency, the house or the senate. Those who did win, ran on change – real, meaningful change. That's what the people want. Not 100% obviously, but a strong enough majority to have elected officials who wanted to do that.

    So, let's get to the change part now.

    September 13, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  10. annie s

    “The problem with trigger is it just delays the public option".

    In other words, Sen Collins admits that the for-profit insurers are never going to lower costs and become affordable and accessible to all Americans. And that's exactly why Americans need the choice of a public plan.

    September 13, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  11. fedfl

    This is going to turn out just like the Medicare Drug benefit.

    The Democrats and Republicans will make a big show of posturing and bickering but, in the end, Wall Street will get everything it wants.


    September 13, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  12. Death Panel Sarah

    The Dems will have to forget trying to compromise with the Cons...its like trying to argue a labor contract with a large corporation, you can argue for years, but they want it all their way. This is headed for 'reconciliation'!

    Death panel the Cons!!!

    September 13, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  13. Hannalee

    Why can't these politicians come out of the closet and take a stand in favor of the public option? We just keep getting these toothless mumbles about the "big picture." Congress and the president are both out of touch with what the public wants. We want a public option because we don't trust the insurance companies to be there for us when we need them. Despite how much we pay in premiums. Big surprise! Why would we feel that way? I hope the Democrats in Congress insisting on the public option stick to their guns. Why should we be forced to pay money to the industry that brought us to this crisis? It's immoral. I want to band with other Americans in a public system for the public good. Let's not have so much damn focus on profit in a system that should promote health for its own sake, not investment.

    Come on, when will the rest of us, the 70 percent, the sentient majority, the non-Whacko wings of the Republicans and Democrats, be listened to??!

    September 13, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  14. Death Panel Sarah

    John Smith ... you are 100% right. The insurance companies will never cut their profits unless they have REAL competition, not the collusion they have now!!!

    September 13, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  15. Rob

    Senator Snow was the one who first put up the idea of a public option trigger, not Senator Collins. It's sad CNN is misleading the public like that, they should know better.

    September 13, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  16. katiec

    Public Option is the only plan that will make the insurance companies competitive and perhaps, bring back some integrity and honor.
    Trigger gives the insurance companies four or five years to get their act together. They do not need another day to do so. The medical related institutions have raped the American people long enough.
    It has to stop.. Health Care Reform has to be put in motion
    now. Regardless of what merits any plan has the republicans will
    vote against it. We need to show the party of No that their lack
    of concern for us and our country is unacceptable.
    We need to say NO to the party of NO.

    September 13, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  17. jules sand-perkins

    Brava, Senator Collins!
    The trigger is NOT a compromise, as another comment asserted: the trigger is a trick to sneak the public option in at a later date.

    September 13, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  18. m jeff

    Republicans are going to reject everything except letting Insurance companies continue to rob the American people.

    September 13, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  19. Gil Oberdas

    Republicans just want to keep their lobbyist insurance companies making huge profits and giving them $.

    September 13, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  20. Di

    The problem with trigger is it just delays the government takeover. This is how the government operates. They take or allow a little at a time. This way no one will notice their objective. With seatbelts, gun control and gay marriage each state have passed laws, soon all states will have the same laws. In the end the government has their agenda passed. Wake up America!

    September 13, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  21. Jeff

    If anything is actually passed it will be something that will have both sides crowing, "Victory!" They'll be happy and we'll still be screwed. Little to nothing will change except, perhaps, the insurance industry will be better protected from the people.

    September 13, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  22. Steve in Kentucky

    If this is a "moderate Republican" we just ought to forget about any of them. Move on and plow the party of racist old white people into the ground!

    September 13, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  23. Roger in CA

    The opponents of real health care reform are a pack of immoral cretins. This must happen.

    The glibness of even Sen. Collins' assumptions that a "trigger" would be inevitably "pulled" by the bureaucrats in charge is typical GOP nonsense: Obviously, the "trigger" will require evaluation of hard data of insurance costs, etc. It would be pretty hard for some "wolf in sheep's clothing" bureaucrat to look at data showing real cost reductions and call it grounds for "pulling" the "trigger" for a public option.

    But I have to say, why does anyone, other than the officers and shareholders of the private insurance companies, CARE about the fate of private insurance? "Rationing?" Really? There isn't rationing NOW???????!??! And if I had to make a choice between a government bureaucrat and an insurance company operative deciding whether my daughter gets necessary care for her cancer (not a hypothetical) I would MUCH rather have the government bureaucrat make that determination: I don't want to leave that decision to someone who gets a bonus based on how many procedures he/she rejects.

    September 13, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  24. Lydia

    What's wrong with a public option??? I want a public option. Why does that make me a horrible hater of my country?

    March and picnic for a public option today in NYC.

    September 13, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  25. Retired US Army Officer - Kansas

    So what she is saying is that the insurance industry is incapable of operating in a fee market competative environment.

    September 13, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
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