Trigger, No Bullets?

legislative triggers:

It's almost impossible to imagine a truly hard trigger mandating the creation of a public option should the insurance companies misbehave. [Timothy S. Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee] points out that it will take a couple of years after the target date just to assemble the data necessary to establish whether insurers are in or out of compliance. But let's assume the insurance lobby doesn't load up the trigger with so many conditions that the trigger becomes impossible to pull. Let's also assume Congress is faced with an unambiguous requirement to create a public-option program. Such a requirement will still be extremely difficult to fulfill becauseunlike the decision to write a check or not write a checkcreation of a government-health-insurance program doesn't result from a simple binary calculation.

Congress can't just say, "Abracadabra, we have a public option." It will have to decide how the public option will work. In theory, the current health reform bill could spell this out in exquisite detail, using language in bills that have already cleared House and Senate committees. But in practice, it seems doubtful that today's opponents of a public option, if their opposition proves successful, will agree to allow the language enacting it provisionally into the bill. Even if they do, the simple fact will remain: If Congress doesn't want to create a public option after the trigger is pulled, no one will make it do so.