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More on Carper's Supposed Compromise

October 1, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

A few more details are emerging today about the public option alternative that Sen. Tom Carper [D, DE] has been shopping around the Senate. Politico reports today that it’s actually more conservative than Sen. Olympia Snowe’s [R, ME] “trigger,” the other leading alternative to a national public insurance option:

Carper’s proposal would leave decisions and solutions up to the states. While Snowe’s amendment sets only an affordability test for the trigger, Carper would allow states to opt-in if affordable insurance is not widely available or the insurance market is dominated by only one or two players.

“I see a menu of options for states to consider in states where there is no meaningful competition,” Carper said.

In other words, Carper’s alternative would only allow states where “affordable” insurance isn’t widely available to decide to set up a public plan or insurance co-op. But unlike Snowe’s plan, it wouldn’t happen automatically. Those states would still have to choose to have a public option. Essentially, it would mean that in red states where insurance in unaffordable, nothing would change. Furthermore, public option supporters have already been arguing against Snowe’s proposal on the basis that state-based public plans would lack the size and leverage needed to compete in the markets strongly enough that prices actually start going down. In states where affordable insurance is unavailable they would generally be even less effective because those states usually have insurance markets that are dominated by a single national-scale company. Carper’s plan does nothing to assuage those concerns.

I don’t see how this comes even close to getting 60 votes to pass as an amendment in the Senate. It’s only chance t getting anywhere, really, is to be included in the underlying bill that gets brought to the floor. That means the only options that really matter on this are the White House, Max Baucus, Tom Harkin and Harry Reid. I’ll report back if any of them have statements on this.

UPDATE: I see a few more posts citing the Politico article that don’t interpret it how I do. Wonk Room, TPM and Donklephant all seem to think that Carper’s plan would simply leave the decision of a public option up to the states. They don’t read it as requiring the decision to be triggered based on unaffordability. Jon Walker at FDL has the same reading as me though. This is the key line: “Carper would allow states to opt-in if affordable insurance is not widely available or the insurance market is dominated by only one or two players.”

And there’s also this in the Politico piece:

Carper’s proposal is, in some ways, more conservative than the “trigger” option offered by Snowe.

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