KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Can Health Coops Do the Job of a Public Plan?

"Perhaps the clearest sign yet of the unpredictable nature of… an ambitious [health care] policy overhaul is the approach that is suddenly starting to emerge on Capitol Hill as an alternative to a public plan - non-profit, consumer run health insurance cooperatives," Time reports. "Despite no public debate on the issue and scant knowledge about how health cooperatives could be set up - not to mention what they would cost, how many people they could insure and, most importantly, how they could bring down the overall cost of health care - the Senate finance committee appears to have tentatively signed on to the concept; a 10-page outline of a plan drafted by the powerful panel included a proposal for such cooperatives - a little understood concept proposed by" Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. Conrad "has admitted he came up with the idea after giving up hope that bi-partisan legislation was possible if a public health insurance plan was included" (Pickert, 6/22).

Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told The Associated Press, "I don't think I could say with a straight face that this (co-op proposal) is at all close to a nationwide public option…Right now, this co-op idea doesn't come close to satisfying anyone who wants a public plan." Schumer also said "Finance Republicans had rejected several proposals designed to beef up the suggested nonprofit insurance co-ops. These included setting up a national structure for the co-ops, $10 billion in government seed money, power to negotiate payment rates to medical providers nationwide and creation of a presidentially appointed board of directors. Without 'dramatic' changes, Schumer said he would oppose the co-ops deal and urge other Democrats to do so as well" (Alonso-Zaldivar).

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