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Health care issues: The ‘trigger’ public plan

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A look at key issues in the health care debate:

THE ISSUE: Would a so-called “trigger” or “fallback” public plan win enough votes to get some sort of government-run insurance option in any health care legislation Congress may pass?

THE POLITICS: The trigger option is seen as a possible compromise that would replace the idea of allowing the government to sell insurance in competition with private insurance. Many Democrats want the so-called public option but Republicans oppose it. The idea is that a public plan would kick in, or be triggered, only if private insurers fail to meet targets for providing affordable policies. Republican opposition to a public option is fierce, with the right charging it will lead to a federal takeover of health care and drive private insurers out of business. But the “trigger” option has some support, including from Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, a key moderate who proposed the fallback plan. Many Democrats say a government insurance option is the only way to introduce competition for private insurers and help those who can’t afford coverage.

WHAT IT MEANS: The “trigger” plan has been embraced by some moderates on both sides of the aisle as an alternative to the public option. A key bill from the Senate Finance Committee doesn’t include the public option because of concern it wouldn’t win passage in the Senate. The “trigger” plan talked up by Snowe might be able to woo moderates, as Democrats search for votes. But it could also infuriate liberals who insist that any health care bill must include the public option.

_ Jennifer C. Kerr

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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