Saturday, September 12, 2009

David Sirota: We've Seen These Triggers Before

File under "Been there. Done That"

Somehow, lots of political observers have forgotten that [...] triggers are the template that the health care industry has long been using to destroy any kind of reform. And if there's any subset of Democratic congressional lawmakers who should know that, it is the progressives.

The obvious lesson is that despite the rhetoric surrounding them, triggers have been proven to serve one purpose and one purpose only - to protect the interests of the health care status quo. That's not a fact - that's historical truth proven every time an American walks into a drugstore and is forced to pay the highest prices for medicines in the world.

What's amazing is that, knowing this history, anyone could think triggers are even good politics. Re-importation bills have been passed a few times now, each time with poison-pill trigger provisions. Each time, politicians publicly pretend this is some great victory and expect consumers to buy the charade. And then each time consumers walk into a drugstore and get gouged on medicine, thanks in part to the legislative poison pill, consumers find out they've been duped by those same politicians.

It's no stretch to think that this is exactly what will happen if overall health care reform is destroyed by triggers - only on a much bigger scale. If Congress passes a health care bill and trumpets a public option that is undermined by triggers, consumers are very quickly going to find out what really happened. When there is no public option because those triggers were (as they will inevitably be) written to make a public option impossible (just like they were written to make re-importation impossible), consumers will realize they've been treated like gullible fools, and not just on one part of health care reform (prescription drugs), but on all of it.

At that point, my bet is you'll see a kind of anger that makes today's Glenn Beck-inspired tea parties seem mild.

There is, certainly, one sliver of hope in all this, and it rests with leaders of the Progressive Caucus. Many of them were in Congress and invested a lot of time and energy in pushing the re-importation bill (and rightly so). Thus, many of them know firsthand that the trigger mechanism is designed only to destroy health care legislation, and not to accomplish some higher goal. So maybe, just maybe, they will take that firsthand knowledge and use it to strengthen their own resolve to stand against triggers and vote against any bill without a robust public option.

Read it all here in the Denver Post.

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