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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Another Snowe Job

The hot topic at this precise moment in time is the concept of a public option "trigger" being proposed by Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe.

Snowe was one of only three Republicans to vote for the February 2009 stimulus plan; without those three Republicans (one of whom, Arlen Specter, formally became a Democrat in April), the stimulus plan would not have passed in its pork-laden, misguided form.

The idea of a trigger is stupid, plain and simple. The concept of giving insurance companies a set period of time to bring down costs, under threat of having their businesses compete with the government, creates the wrong incentives. Cutting costs by rationing care is not what we need, and putting in place a trigger simply will encourage insurance companies to make arbitrary cuts.

Rather than relying on insurance companies or government, we need to move on to market reforms which will accomplish most of what people want without creating new government bureaucracies or arbitrary insurance company cutbacks. Empower hundreds of millions of people to shop for health services and products the same way they shop for other consumer goods and services, and require medical providers to compete for the business.

Cross-state insurance markets, easy to use health savings accounts, and other mechanisms which do not require government spending are the answers. Improving the markets will allow for lower cost catastrophic plans, policies which are portable, and no preexisting condition exclusions.

The current system does not encourage consumer cost consciousness or innovative insurance plans because insurance companies and government foot almost all of the health care bill, and a government plan will make this situation worse. Who cares what the MRI costs if someone else is paying. Medicare costs are out of control precisely because patients have no stake in the costs; if Medicare patients had a financial incentive (i.e., they keep some of the savings) to find lower cost providers, everyone would benefit.

If a public plan is so great, then pass a public plan. If a public plan is not so great (my view), then kill the idea once and for all and move on to what people really want, individual empowerment.

What we do not need is another Snowe job.

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  1. So, as we're "counting votes" on the floor of the Senate, whaddya think we should expect from Olympia? Obviously, she's "for" the public option as any good Democratic Republican should be. She merely intends to dress it up a little.

  2. The trigger is likely not going to be an event or occurrence, but a date.

  3. Thought you might find this encouraging:

    Memo to Whitehouse: Snowe is not in the forecast
    By Tarren Bragdon on September 3, 2009 11:53 AM | Permalink | TrackBacks (0)
    The email dings started around 10:00 pm, and continued throughout the night as folks throughout Maine sent me the latest report on CNN.com that quotes "sources" who claim, "President Obama and top aides have quietly stepped up talks with moderate Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine on a scaled-back health care bill, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations."

    I know that Washington DC folks spend a great deal of time in an alternative world, but seriously - Senator Snowe engaged in behind the scenes talks with the President? Forget for a moment that Senator Snowe has been working on health care issues since President Obama was in grammar school, the real issue here is that Senator Snowe doesn't need to do anything behind the scenes with the Whitehouse, or anyone else for that matter.

    I met with her personally during the August recess back here in Maine when she talked to dozens of Maine folks in a series of health care talks throughout the state. Here is what I learned: She is worried about costs and the impact on the deficit, the public option plan is "off the table", she wants more private insurance companies in Maine (we have 3), and she doesn't support higher taxes - especially during a recession.

    Those concerns and opinions were not from "unnamed sources," they were straight from Senator Snowe. And just to be certain, I spoke to her Chief of Staff and her Health Care Legislative Aid this morning. There is nothing new - other than the fact that Senator Snowe continues to be committed to working for health care reform with her colleagues in the "gang of six" and that "nothing has changed that would justify the CNN story."

    I think the fundamental problem here is that the folks at the White House - who are very likely spinning this story in an attempt to pressure Senator Snowe - are totally misreading the way she operates. While the "moderate" label is often used by the far right to protest Senator Snowe's actions - the left is about to learn a very important lesson from the Moderate from Maine.

    It is not an act. It is not something Senator Snowe does to get re-elected or to curry favor. She believes that there is middle ground and she looks for it. For her, middle ground means giving businesses the opportunity to join together and purchase health care - regardless of state lines. It involves tort reform, it involves ensuring folks have skin in the game (not "free" government health care) and it involves truly bending the cost curve. The bottom line is that Democrats in Congress, and this President, have failed to find the middle ground in the health care debate. In fact, they have veered so far off the center that they will find no sympathy - behind the scenes or not - from Senator Snowe or her other moderate colleagues.

    As for the other "White House" strategy where CNN reports, "Allies of the president hope that if Snowe accepts a health care agreement, she might also bring along her Republican colleague from Maine, moderate Senator Susan Collins." Don't hold your breath.

    In fact, you can go here and listen to Senator Collins reject the public option, and the health care reform effort in her own words, as she responds to a question from an SEIU member. (The relevant part starts at 55:25 and runs for two minutes).

    So, my suggestion to the White House: put away your shovels, there is no Snowe in the forecast.
    Categories: Healthcare
    Tags: CNN, Maine health care, Obama, Obamacare, Senator Olympia Snowe, Snowe CNN, government health care, health care
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  4. I'm just curious, why is health insurance not run the same way as Car Insurance? Is that the best way to get a more competitive market and thus reduce costs? I mean, we do have such things as Safe Auto where "we keep you legal for less" is the motto (I don't know how true that is) but, and I know I'm probably making this too simple and I'm not the only one to ever suggest this, can't the government just require health insurance the same way they require car insurance and allow people to go out and get it as cheap as they possibly can? I would imagine there then could be a plan, like cell phone companies do it, where you only pay when you need it (like buying cell phone minutes). I don't know. I'm just asking the question.

  5. Because the government (through Medicare)prevents competition by regulating pricing. You can also thank them, courtesy of establishing reasonable and customary rates for negatively impacting the costs of healthcare if you don't have insurance. It's ironic that Obama and friends keep bashing private insurance for the costs of medical care when it's Medicare regulations that are primarily responsible for the problem and then they want us to think that further involvement of the government will help. Also, for people who do not have insurance through their employer, portability becomes an issue......as in you have to address the issue of pre-existing conditions not being covered by your new carrier. Additionally, private insurance carriers offer substantial discounts to corporations in return for guaranteed enrollees. The "little guy" doesn't have access to these discounts.

    One thing I haven't heard anyone address is the cost of administering this government plan. Was this part of the 1 trillion being tossed around as the cost to implement the plan?