Here's the truth about the trigger, which many Democratic officials are now floating as a compromise to placate us in the base. It's the same old playbook that politicians have used before in the passage of these legislative bills as outlined by Timothy Nash over at Slate in his article, "Triggernometry."
In short, the trigger is a form of kicking the can down the road in hopes that it'll never be addressed, and hey, even if conditions arise, like what happened in with the 1996 HIPAA Act, these Members of Congress ignored the trigger and ensured that it never got pulled:
Legislative triggers have an especially dismal history in health care policy, argues Timothy S. Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee. In 1996 the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act required states to impose health-insurance reforms similar to those proposed in the current health reform bill; if the states failed to act, the federal department of Health and Human Services would impose them. States failed to implement reforms—and so did HHS.
These lobbyists who are now championing the trigger through these elected officials are the former legislative staffers of these same officials who worked on the Medicare Part D act, in which the trigger never got pulled. I'd also like to thank one of our kossacks here, dalamia, for pointing out one of these lobbyists below.
One of these lobbyists, Colette Desmarais, works with Mehlman, Vogel, and Castagnetti, one of the largest lobbying firms in D.C. that represents America's Health Insurance Plans and Humana. Prior to her employment with Mehlman, Vogel, and Castagnetti, she worked with Senator Grassley as his top policy aide on the Senate Finance Committee. She was instrumental in writing the legislation for the Medicare prescription drug benefit and the Medicare Advantage programs.
One such legislative trigger that Colette Desmarais helped write in Medicare Part D is the one that Timothy Noah wrote about in the Slate article:
In 2003, when Congress added a drug benefit to Medicare, it worried that its new program to provide coverage through private plans subsidized heavily by the government would prove ineffective. But a trigger to end the program focused only on whether these private plans would serve all regions of the country, which they did. The trigger failed to address the real problems that emerged: fraud, abrupt changes in formularies and drug charges after beneficiaries signed up, and high costs. Meanwhile, a separate trigger in the bill required the president to address projected shortfalls within 15 days of receiving notice that 45 percent or more of Medicare funding was drawing down general revenues. Congress would then appropriate the necessary additional funds under an expedited procedure. But when President Bush notified Congress in 2006 that the 45 percent threshold had been exceeded, Congress did nothing. The threshold has been exceeded every year since then. Congress continues to do nothing.
And guess what? Colette Desmarais was also formerly employed by the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, the one regional co-operative that politicians in Washington have been touting as a "compromise" to get rid of the public option. And before that, her former employer was America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). The lobbying door just keeps on revolving with these people at Mehlman, Vogel, and Castagnetti.
It's why a legislative trigger won't work. It's the same playbook used by lobbyists like Colette Desmarais who's now whispering about the legislative trigger and regional co-operatives in these politicians' ears.
It's why we're fighting to make sure that there is a trigger-free public option in the final bill, and we're helping our Congressional Progressive Caucus stand firm on a trigger-free public option!
I have a Google Group called "PublicOptionNOW!" and I'd appreciate it if you could join it to stay in touch with nyceve and I about what we're doing, and help me fight for a trigger-free public option. I've set up a Facebook group called PublicOptionNOW. Will you please join the Facebook group to stay in touch with me about action updates, and what we can do together to kill the trigger dead on the public option if you're on Facebook? You can also follow me on Twitter @slinkerwink, and follow nyceve on Twitter @nyceve1.
And now for the end of the crowd-sourcing effort on the four lawmakers from yesterday:
- Rep. George Miller took over $10,000 from the America Health Care Association PAC. The rest of his PAC donations come from labor unions. He's taken $500 from Steven Champlin, a lobbyist who represents America's Health Insurance Plans, and $1,000 from Sandra Stuart, a lobbyist who represents HealthNet Inc., a private insurer.
- Rep. Charlie Rangel's taken thousands of dollars in PAC contributions from major pharmaceutical companies like Amgen, Biogen Idec, and Genentech. He's also taken PAC contributions from private insurers like $2,500 from Cigna, $2,500 from DaVita, and $2,500 from UnitedHealth. And there are the individual donations from lobbyists like $2,400 from Frederick Graefe, a lobbyist who represents Medco Health Solutions, a private insurer, $2,000 from Jonathan Talisman who represents UnitedHealth, and $1000 from Michael Bromberg and $1000 from Steven Jenning who both work at Capitol Health Group that represents AHIP.
- Rep. John Lewis's donations from PACs are mostly labor and health medical professionals. He hasn't taken any individual contributions from any of the heavy-hitters in the lobbying industry representing special health care interests.
- Rep. Dale Kildee really hasn't taken any PAC contributions from any of the heavy-hitters that we've been looking into, and he hasn't taken individual contributions from the usual lobbyists either. Good for Rep. Kildee.
I have a brand-new media project tomorrow that I'm excited about tomorrow. It's a great project, and it'll involve pictures of us explaining why we want a trigger-free public option. I'll work on creating a web video from that. Please stay tuned for that!
Update: link added to the March For Health Care Sept 13th event tomorrow.