KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Colorado Rural Co-ops Provide Example For Health Care System Proposal

Rural utility co-ops in Colorado could provide an example of how a co-op would work nationally for health care, The Denver Post reports.

"Strange as it sounds, the humble cooperatives that electrified rural America and serve as a foundation of the farm economy have suddenly landed at the center of the debate over Congress' effort to reform a health care system dominated by multibillion-dollar drug companies and hospital conglomerates."

The Denver Post notes: "Although there are a few health insurance cooperatives, the idea has never been tested on a massive scale. Co-ops are most often small, community-based businesses that help farmers store grain or buy machinery. In rural areas, co-ops were often the only way to connect isolated farms to the electrical grid, because so few customers weren't worth the investment to major utilities. (Ray) Clifton, of the (Colorado Rural Electric Association), said he believes co-ops did a better job at the task than a purely government-run program could have - and for similar reasons, so would health insurance co-ops."

Among the attributes he listed: "'They are service-oriented. The whole concept of a co-op is to provide a service of the most reasonable cost,' he said. 'The directors live in the community, they meet their fellow ratepayers in the grocery store or at church. This is local control.'"

Some criticisms of the co-ops are that they are less efficient and unwieldy in practice (Riley, 6/24).

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