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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Who Triggers the Public Option?

The progressive zeitgeist during the last week has leaned pretty strongly in the direction of a health care reform system that would provide for a strong public option that states could either opt into or opt out of, as opposed to a “triggered” public option where, in theory at least, objective market conditions would determine what happens in particular states.
Interestingly enough, one of the Democratic senators considered shaky on health reform, Bill Nelson of Florida, said today he favored the “trigger” over any state option. When you look at the state Nelson represents, you can perhaps understand it. At present, Florida has a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled legislature, and is facing a highly competitive 2010 election cycle. (For the record, I’ve been raising my own alarms about the impact of a state option on the dynamics of the 2010 elections at the state level).
Why isn’t this point of view held more generally? It could be because the “trigger” idea emerged earlier than the various state option schemes, so that insistence on an “untriggered” public option became part of the general campaign against abandonment of the public option altogether. Or it may be because many progressives, citing polls, think the public option is so popular that resistance in the states can be overcome.
I don’t quite understand why anyone would assume that state legislatures are more resistant than the U.S. Senate to the blandishments and pressure of the forces opposing the public option, but it’s a legitimate argument in a debate that really needs to break out among all advocates of health care reform. Barring a “robust” national system, the public option is in fact going to be “triggered” in parts of the country one way or another. The question is who or what does the “triggering,” under what sorts of circumumstances.

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