Liberal Groups Attack Public Option "Trigger" Plan

The Senate could unveil its health care bill this week, and reports indicate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is seriously considering including in the bill a government-run health insurance plan, or "public option," after facing pressure from liberal activists and legislators on the issue. In an attempt to find a compromise on the controversial proposal, the senator may allow states to opt out of the program.

Yet as Reid has stepped up his support for the public option, some liberals fear President Obama is faltering in his commitment to the plan, which he has said repeatedly he supports.

"President Barack Obama is actively discouraging Senate Democrats in their effort to include a public insurance option with a state opt-out clause as part of health care reform," the Huffington Post reported. "In its place, say multiple Democratic sources, Obama has indicated a preference for an alternative policy, favored by the insurance industry, which would see a public plan 'triggered' into effect in the future by a failure of the industry to meet certain benchmarks."

Other news outlets also reported the president expressed support for a "trigger" plan when he met with Reid and other Senate leaders on Thursday. The White House told CBSNews.com, however, that Mr. Obama did not give any preferences. White House Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer on Sunday wrote a White House blog post to try to lay the issue to rest.

"A rumor is making the rounds that the White House and Senator Reid are pursuing different strategies on the public option," Pfeiffer wrote. "Those rumors are absolutely false. In his September 9th address to Congress, President Obama made clear that he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition. That continues to be the President's position."

Still, liberal advocacy groups are not taking any chances.

On Friday, the "Netroots" group MoveOn.org sent its supporters an e-mail reading, "Tell President Obama to stand with Senate Democrats and the American public to ensure the Senate bill includes a strong public health insurance option—not Senator Snowe's 'trigger.'"

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The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) is out with a new campaign targeting Mr. Obama's alleged preference for the trigger, which he reportedly prefers because it would win the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine -- the one Republican who may vote in favor of health care reform. The PCCC's campaign includes a television ad to air in Maine, shown above, and a petition to the president, stating, "Getting one Republican senator's vote is not worth delaying reform -- too many real lives are at stake. We need you to fight and state clearly that anything less than a strong public option is not change we can believe in."

At least one liberal senator is pushing back against the trigger as well. On Friday, public option proponent Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) released a statement saying, "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."

On CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) said he may not support the final bill if it does not include a public option.

"To me that would be a very serious gap and it would be a very strong reason not to support it," he said. "We need a public option. We need something that would cause some control over the abuses that have occurred in the insurance industry."

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