Critical Condition

Don’t Be Snowed

Neither government-created cooperatives nor a “trigger” for bringing in government health insurance later should be considered reasonable grounds for forging a bipartisan health-care bill in Congress. Cooperatives and triggers are not alternatives to government-run health care. They are merely tactics for ensuring the same outcome, perhaps more gradually but not less destructively.

But Sen. Olympia Snowe seems intent on trying to fashion a “compromise” bill based on such a tactic:

Proponents have long argued that without the competitive pressure of a public option, private insurers would resist calls to lower premiums and eliminate such discriminatory practices as denying coverage to older Americans or people with pre-existing medical conditions. But with most Republicans and many moderate Democrats adamantly opposed to increased government involvement in the insurance market, Snowe and others insist that a trigger would be a reasonable compromise.

“I think it’s a good means of ensuring that people have access to affordable plans, ultimately,” Snowe said in an interview earlier this week. “It does inject a measure of competition but it also creates incentives because you know it’s there.”

The other, regulatory parts of such a federal bill will, of course, accelerate the unraveling of the private market for health plans, as is their purpose. The trick here is that the trigger will be manufactured to go off at the slighest touch.

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