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Klobuchar on CNN: I’m Open to A Trigger for the Public Option.

Minnesota was front-and-center in the health care debate this weekend, when CNN’s State of the Union show, hosted by John King, broadcast live from the Minnesota State Fair.

King got right down to business, immediately asking Senator Amy Klobuchar if she supported a "trigger" mechanism for the public option, which would only "trigger" a public health insurance option if certain conditions weren’t met by the private market after a certain time period had elapsed.

Senator Klobuchar indicated her openness to a trigger component to the public health insurance option, but made it clear that competition would be the main goal of any legislation:

You know, I’d want to see what those triggers are, what the benchmarks are. Because when I get around our state, talk to, like, a small business, a backpack company up in Two Harbors, a guy there owns a company, $24,000 a year he’s paying for his family of four, and he says he wouldn’t even have started the company 15 years ago if he knew that.

So what I want to see is something where small businesses, self- employed, small businesses are paying 20 percent more than people who work at big corporations, that they have a chance to buy into something. And certainly it’s worth looking at, but we have to push competition. We have to do a better job of putting some rules on the insurance companies.

So I think a combination of pushing on with some competition, whether it’s some kind of a public option, or any kind of a push, and also have those kinds of rules. We need to do something, and that’s a consensus I see developing.

While Klobuchar’s overarching goal in terms of health insurance reform seems to be making the market more competitive, supporting a "trigger" for a public health insurance option doesn’t make sense. I’ll let Senator Chuck Schumer explain why (emphasis in the original):

Some who have been skeptical of a public plan have been calling for a "trigger," that would introduce a public plan some time down the road if certain conditions were met. Today’s report blow away the idea that we should wait for a trigger. Today’s report seems to suggest that any reasonable criteria for triggering a public plan has already been met.

After all, if we were to write a trigger into comprehensive health care reform, what would it look like? The main criteria would be market share and premium price. This report today shows that in many states, both conditions have already been met. Premiums are high, and either one or two insurers dominate the market. As we’ve seen with Medicare part D, a trigger option has so far meant no public option at all.

Back in July, we talked about how Minnesota needs health insurance reform and that’s no less true today than it was then:

  • Every day,190 Minnesotans lose their health insurance.
  • Two health insurance companies control 76% of the of health insurance market in the stat.
  • Minnesota has seen a 20% rise in the number of uninsured during this same period. But having coverage doesn’t mean you’re without worry. The average Minnesota family pays $400 in higher premium costs because of a broken health care system that costs the American economy between $124 billion and $248 billion in lost productivity this year alone due to the almost 52 million uninsured Americans who live shorter lives and have poorer health.

As Senator Schumer said, it doesn’t make much sense to include a trigger for a public health insurance option when all the trigger conditions have already been met.

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