June 11th, 2009
08:05 PM ET
11 months ago

Pelosi says no to health co-ops proposal

WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday dismissed the idea of health-insurance cooperatives as an alternative to a government-sponsored health-care plan.

Asked at her weekly news conference whether she could support non-profit co-ops, Pelosi said, "No, not instead of a public option."

A proposal to create health-insurance cooperatives that could compete with private insurance companies has become the focus of bipartisan talks in the Senate. Republicans have made it clear that a government-run plan is a non-starter for them.

The co-op model was floated earlier this week by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, as a way to get bipartisan support for health-care reform. The co-ops - modeled on electricity and agricultural cooperatives in rural states - would be run and paid for by their members.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a member of the Democratic leadership and the Senate Finance Committee, said he's been tasked with gauging support for such an approach.

"If you're going to have a co-op model work, it has to accomplish all the things that many of us want a public option to do," such as "mainly keeping the insurance companies honest, bringing costs down, [and] bringing transparency," Schumer told reporters Thursday.

Despite the Senate talks, Pelosi said House Democrats were moving forward with a bill focused on creating a government insurance plan. "In our House, there is strong support for a public option," she said.

The speaker described the model, saying, "It should be actuarially sound. It should be administratively self-sufficient. It should be a real competitor with the private sector and not have an unfair advantage. When you say the words public option - if that is the term we will be using - you have to say right next to it, level playing field."

While some Senate Republicans have indicated they are open to the idea of co-op system, House GOP Leader John Boehner said he needed to see more details, and he restated his opposition to any kind of government plan.

"I'm opposed to a government option, period," said Boehner. "Listen, if you like going to the DMV and you think they do a great job, or you like going to the post office and think it's the most efficient thing you've run into, then you'll love the government-run health-care system that they're proposing, 'cause that's basically what you're gonna have."

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association, one of the most prominent health care interest groups, is vocally criticizing a government-run plan, and appears open to the co-op concept.

"The AMA opposes any public plan… but the AMA is willing to consider other variations of a public plan that are currently under consideration in Congress. This includes a federally charted co-op health plan," wrote AMA President Nancy H. Neilsen.

Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami refused to say whether House Democratic leaders would be willing to compromise if the Senate moved forward with a bill without a government-run plan, saying, "The House passed bill is going to include a public option."


Filed under: Health care • Nancy Pelosi
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