One of the Senate's foremost champions of the public insurance option re-asserted on Friday his opposition to a compromise approach that would establish a government-run insurance plan only if certain market conditions aren't met.
In a statement issued apparently in response to news that the White House is leaning towards the so-called "trigger" approach, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) said the following.
"Historically, 'trigger' mechanisms have not been successful, and they are not a substitute for a strong public health insurance option, A 'trigger' simply delays price competition, which in turn will delay affordability for consumers and moves us farther away from the goals of health care reform. Already, we are seeing insurance companies threatening to game the system, by raising their prices in advance of reform. The only way to curb price-gouging by health insurance companies is with real competition on day one--that is the public option."
An aide to the senator said Rockefeller was merely registering his philosophical opposition to the compromise approach and not, necessarily, committing himself to voting against (or filibustering) the trigger-option if it came to a vote.
"He does not say either of those things," the aide says. "He is explaining why they aren't good. He opposes the creation of a trigger."
The aide also said that Rockefeller was still "looking into" the other potential compromise approach: creating a public option that states could opt-out of.
But the desire by the senator's office to re-state its opposition on a day when the Senate is conducting no official business says something about the current state of the health care debate. Right now, there are a slew of conflicting reports about what public option package has the blessing of leadership in both chambers of Congress as well as the president. Well-connected sources insist that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is pushing to get the vote for health care bill with an opt-out version of the public plan. But the confusion is obviously widespread enough to persuade one of body's foremost public option supporters to lay down a marker about where he stands on triggers.