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Why The “Trigger” Is A Con Job Pulled On Us By Lobbyists

I wrote a few days ago about how the legislative trigger on the public option was nothing more than a con job pulled on us by insurance lobbyists through politicians like Senator Baucus, Conrad, Nelson, and "moderate" Democrats in the House, including White House administration officials like Rahm Emmanuel who suggested the "trigger" on the public option as a compromise. 

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 dalamia, for pointing out some 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).

Another one of these lobbyists happily employed by AHIP at Mehlman, Vogel, & Castagnetti, is Jon Hoganson, who used to be Rahm Emmanuel’s legislative director for five years on the Hill, and before that, was a staffer for then-Rep. Rod Blagojevich, the former Governor of Illinois.  I wonder if that’s where Mr. Emmanuel got the “trigger” idea from, and that would explain it. 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.

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