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. Hannalee

    Di: You're right. Seatbelts are a crime against the American people! An absolute hoax! Ask any police officer! And of course, how could we attend public rallies naked, without our guns?!

    To say nothing at all about GAY MARRIAGE!! Obviously it's Government's objective to stop reproduction. Hey, wait a minute. Why would they stop the births of new taxpayers??

    September 13, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  2. steve

    It is amazing to see the fools who continue to vote against there best interest. The ignorant masses are easily manipulated by Corporate America and then they complain that they can't get ahead. People get what they deserve.

    September 13, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. Dcook140

    One of you pro-public plan liberals please address this: The premise of the Public Plan is to force the for profit insurance companies to keep their prices low.

    In California the two largest health care insurance companies are Kaiser and Blue Cross/Blue Schield. Both are non-profit. No nasty profits.. not dividends paid to their greedy shareholders (many of those greedy shareholders on wall street include CALPERS).

    The reason the Public Plan can and will put these two insurance companies out of business is as follows:
    1. The public plan will use the power of govenment to dictate provider payments equal to medicare or medicare +5%.
    2. It is generally accepted that this payment schedule is minimum 20% below cost.
    3. If I can set the price I pay my vendors, and set the rules you have to play by, including accepting pre-existing conditions, pay restrictions, etc. without any increase in rates.. I will put you out of business quickly.

    Two additional but salient points..
    1. Does anyone out there think that a SEIU staffed beaurcracy that administers a health care plan is more efficient or less costly than a staff operating within Kaiser or Blue Cross? Who, do you think, will have a better benefit package or higher salaries or security of employment?
    2. Let us assume, since there is a Democratic Majority and all this that we talk about will be ignored, that the Public Plan and HR 3200 passes as it is. How exactly will this stop Medicare from going broke in 2017?

    Please try to answer with some specificity, not just sling invectives such as More from the Party of NO etc.

    I am going to be on medicare soon, so much of what is happening won't affect me. You young folks are the ones who will be shouldering the billfor all of this.

    September 13, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  4. Dave

    A perfect example of Democratic political double talk from Ms Shaheen; "we’re going to have a bill that has significant bipartisan input regardless of how the votes come out."

    I fail to understand how something can be bipartisan if only one side votes for it. If that kind of thinking had been applied to women's suffrage, they still won't have a vote because their input at home to their husband over the kitchen table would have been considered sufficient regardless of whether he listened or not.

    September 13, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  5. windrider

    Well, Dan of Texas, that's a pretty interesting solution.

    Eliminate Medicare and kill off a LOT of elderly and disabled people.

    For anyone who can't afford to buy insurance, refuse to treat them, even for life-threatening illnesses, if they don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for a procedure and let them die too.

    That will pare down the US population to healthy young and middle aged people with plenty of money; everyone else dies under your plan, some faster than others.

    I have a better solution. Quit dithering and put together the best bill that will serve the largest number of people as affordably as possible, and pass it.

    For those who vote against the bill, their constituents will be exempt from having to pay for any of its provisions AND they will *not* be allowed to benefit from ANY provision of the plan.

    So if your Senator and Representative vote against the bill, you won't have to pay for it. But you, your family and your neighbors will also NOT be able to participate. That's probably fine with you as long as your money holds out and you have a job with an employer who provides good insurance coverage. But if the day comes when you lose your job and your insurance, you'll be up the creek without a paddle, so to speak.

    September 13, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  6. Julie

    If a public option as a plan choice alternative is so bad then why not just do away with Medicare and all the other government socialistic programs that so many people have and seem to like just fine?? Equal protection under the law means that these options must be available to all or to none. I don't think that would fly to well with some people. The attitude is "I've got mind, I don't care about anyone else". Truly sad.

    September 13, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  7. Tony

    My only question is why does the administration keep playing with these clowns? The republican party has been completely high-jacked by some weird force. They offer nothing, but attempt to influence everything. Just pass the bill with public option, ...get it done!

    September 13, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  8. Allen

    To Steve in Kentucky,
    Use the racism claim all you want. The country is starting to realize that the word is used by liberals to oppress conservatives.
    Here is a clue for you. White people are no longer afraid to be called racists. And, no offense intended, we are not afraid of African Americans/Blacks/ other minorities or gays.
    We simply do not want socialism under any circumstances. You and I will be less free if socialized medicine is allowed to be realized. Why don't you attack the Democrats for protecting the profit loving lawyers who are a part of this mess? Or the union mob bosses that line thier pockets from the hard labor of the blue collar worker?

    September 13, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  9. arv

    Here's an idea. Let the trigger go the other way. Institute the Public Option immediately. When the for-profit insurance company brings its premiums and practices into compliance, then end the public option.

    September 13, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  10. Marty, FL

    Is there anything that will satisfy these Republicans? They have shown no willingness to compromise on just about everything and only confirm the shameful dishonor of the Party of No.

    The Democrats continue to make concessions in respectful efforts to build consensus–from single payer to public option to including Republican amendments to malpractice considerations to the trigger, etc. What are these Republicans willing to compromise?? Nothing!

    I cannot believe I was a lifelong Republican at one time with this deplorable nonsense. It certainly does not make me ever want to return. Forget them...

    September 13, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  11. Anonymous

    It is truly a shame that the democrats have to pick up a republican senator to pass what is so desperately needed in order to get to 60 votes.

    September 13, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  12. Juge

    It is always interesting to see those who have forever health care at reasonable prices make decisions for most of the rest of us that do not have that luxury. Also it is interesting to listen to those that are against any change ignore or are ignorant of the fact that if they lose their job they lose their health insurance and under existing conditions would probably not be able to get insurance again. They also have not noticed that every year their health insurance payments go up astronomically or their options go down. If their company changes insurance companies their choice of doctors change too – so that the statement if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor has an IFFFY meaning. HMOs INSURANCE companies are not interested in your health, they are only interested in their profits. We are the only country that has FOR PROFIT HEALTH INSURANCE so that makes the word HEALTH an oxymoron in describing the insurance that is offered in our country. SHAME SHAME SHAME on those people who are dumb, dumber and dumbest and the corporations who are taking advantage of their ignorance.

    September 13, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  13. Steve

    The wishy washy Collins is just expressing the majority's views. It was generally agreed on This Week that there are 15 Democrat Senators opposed to the public option. i hope they're right. I have no interest in a plan like the public option that is designed to drive up health insurance costs considerably and having the government make our health care decisions for us. RIP, public option! Worst idea ever.

    September 13, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  14. Patrick

    To hell with the republicans. Pass the public option under reconcilliation. They will scream and cry and stomp their feet, no matter what the democrats do. The republicans are lying and many fools have fallen for it. The republicans don't care about Americans. They would rather kill ant democratic propsal then let the democrats have a win on anything. They would rather more Americans die from lack of insurance, than get anything passed. This proves republicans are anti-American and unpatriotic.

    September 13, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  15. GIBBS

    wake up congress....the american public does not and i repeat does not want a public option. those who vote for one will be replaced in their next election.

    September 13, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  16. Cindy

    A person would have to be a fool to think the insurance industry would voluntarily cut their profits. Let's face it. Insurance companies could have solved this problem ages ago if they really wanted too. It's so sad that people still want to give them all the control and actually think by competiting in all states would solve the problem. I just don't buy that myself. I'm for the Public Option, because it seems the only serious way to actually reduce costs. The Public option will be the only thing that will force insurance companies to cut their costs and reduce their profits.

    September 13, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  17. Whistle Blower

    Why all the secrecy?My neighbors both work for a large Insurance Company and went to Washington to march on the White House.They were told not to use the Companies name or logo,or tell others who they were.They both make huge six figure salaries as middle managers and make death panel decisions.

    September 13, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  18. Ken

    Too many of our friends (becoming more and more less friendly) have enjoyed the targeted benefits of socialist policies and programs for so long, they cannot conceive or will not apply the common sense logic which leads to an irrefutable conclusion that unlimited socialism will not be forever possible. Resources are not infinite. Desires for health care services are unlimited. Some wish to equate "desire" for economic "demand", but that is a profound error. Economic "demand" is necessarily funded with resources. Desire, on the other hand, needs nothing more than the wish – or even in many opinions a "need". Even needs cannot be met without resources. Unlimited health care not be made possible for everyone. No more so than unlimited food, housing, education, etc. etc. Unlimited health care is not sustainable, with our without the masquerade of insurance.

    September 13, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  19. Butterfly

    If the Republicans believe that thier ideas will reduce cost and want them included int the bill, then they should be 100% behind the trigger. Either costs will come down after taking other measures and we wont need the public option or the insurance companies will not do thier jobs and stop stealing from thier policy holders and cost will come down and we won't need the public option. If thier is no cosequece for failing to lower the cost to consumers they won't do it.

    Ins. Co. & CEO With 2008 Total CEO Compensation
    Aetna, Ronald A. Williams: $24,300,112
    Cigna, H. Edward Hanway: $12,236,740
    Coventry, Dale Wolf: $9,047,469
    Health Net, Jay Gellert: $4,425,355
    Humana, Michael McCallister: $4,764,309
    U. Health Group, Stephen J. Hemsley: $3,241,042
    Wellpoint, Angela Braly: $9,844,212
    What could these people possibly do every day that makes them worth this much money? What value do they add to society that they are rewarded with millions and millions of dollars? Nobody doing any job is worth this much
    Thses are the people you opponents to health care reform are defending. These are the people you would pay to makes decision about what gets convered. Do you think they care about providing good affordable health care to those who pay premiums or do you think they are trying to rip you off? No body needs that much money to live on and nobody does a job that is worth that much. They did not earn that money, they stole it.
    Can you afford to defend these people? Aren't you just as angry at them as bankers getting large bonuses?
    Come on, get real!!!!!

    September 13, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  20. fred

    Eddie M, CNN views every senator as a KEY senator. If you haven't noticed, the word "key" is found before "senator" in a headline almost every time on the political ticker. CNN really posts some crappy stories. I've realized CNN always has articles on things that people will maybe think is debatable, but not on things that are important. I think that's why CNN always posts stories about Palin and Cheney......because those are names that people have strong emotions towards one way or another. But none of the articles about those people are actually important. (Such as the win a dinner with Palin article).

    September 13, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  21. Herschel McMillan

    I think as well as I can remember to the finishing of the presidents address of congress, there was reports that Mr. Wilson had apologized to the man. This is more than I heard of the president issuing such for a policeman that was called stupidly for doing a job that he was well trained for and doing his job. Sitting down to a beer doesn't spell apology for me. I would like to hear it out of the mouth.

    Also if you think Ted Kennedy wanted the social medicine that his state of Mass. has, then why did he go to Duke Medical Center to have his brain surgery? I don't think he liked the idea for him self, may be just for the rest of us peons.

    September 13, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  22. Rick in OP

    The Public Option is dead. All of the parasites who are waiting for another government hand out need to go get a job and pay for your own insurance like the vast majority of us do.

    September 13, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  23. Jim in Denver

    A dear Republican friend of mine is now faced with life threatening liver cancer. His private insurance company has denied him access to a new procedure that is showing great promise in treating his type of condition. This has been an eye-opener, to say the least. Sarah Palin's "death panels" are alive and well and walking the halls of the nation's insurance companies.

    September 13, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  24. Hannah

    The problem here is that health care does not work as a market based commodity. We all saw how deregulation of utilities didn't work in California in 2000, prices went up exponentially and people could not afford to have electricity. With health care people don't have the option of not buying if the price is too high. If they don't buy they die. And the insurance companies are charging too much with too much overhead, CEO's salaries and having to answer to shareholders. It should be regulated like our utilities have always been regulated in order to work. That is why the single payor system run by government in UK and Canada and France work well for the people and that is what we need. Unfortunately the HMO insurance lobbyists have too much control to let go of any of the health care business, they want it all.

    September 13, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  25. the Film Professor

    So Senator Collins, exactly how will you make health insurance "affordable" for those who can "afford" it?

    People like me are not asking for a free ride. I just want to be able to pay the same amount per month that everyone else who works for a large company or the government pays every month. Why is it that you and so many others think that YOU deserve 'affordable" health care, and that others who are willing to pay do not? Why can't I keep my insurance that I have had for 10 years and still pay a group rate, even though I was recently "reorganized" out of my job? Why should my estimated costs of our wonderful "private" insurance be 5 times what I have been paying?

    Get real, Senator Collins, please. If not, you will just continue to be "part of the problem" and reflect the total selfishness of so many of your GOP colleagues.

    September 13, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
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