June 10th, 2009
10:08 PM ET
14 years ago

Co-ops plan emerging as possible key to health-care compromise

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A proposal to create privatelyoperated
health-insurance cooperatives as an alternative to a government-run health plan is gaining steam in the Senate, several key senators said Wednesday.

The plan is shaping up as possibly the most viable way to bridge a key difference between Democrats and Republicans negotiating a health care overhaul, senators said.

The non-profit co-ops, based on the model of electricity, agricultural and other cooperatives in rural states, would be run and paid for by its members, although an initial infusion of federal funds might be needed to get them off the ground, senators said.

"I'm doing all I can to get a bipartisan solution, and right now the so-called public option is being transformed into a private alternative," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, said as he left a closed-door meeting on the issue. "It may not work. If so, we'll have to find something else. But right now it looks like it has a decent chance of working."

Baucus tasked two senior Democrats - Charles Schumer of New York and Kent Conrad of North Dakota - to develop legislation that might be acceptable to enough lawmakers from both parties to pass.

When Conrad first developed the co-op proposal, Schumer balked at it, arguing co-ops might struggle to compete with big health-insurance companies and therefore would not help drive down costs. But after meeting with Conrad and other health negotiators Schumer said he would see if they could craft a workable plan.

Baucus said President Barack Obama was "interested" in the co-op idea when they discussed it at the White House Wednesday morning.

Asked if the proposal was emerging as the key to a health care compromise, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Finance Committee was cautiously optimistic.

"It's got possibilities. But it's too new and there were a lot of questions raised about it - not outright objections - in our caucus but a lot of questions," he said.

Filed under: Health care
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Co-op?

    baloney, nationalize them

    June 10, 2009 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  2. Willy Brown

    Tax Monster, Tax Monster run!

    June 10, 2009 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  3. Obama - NOPE

    Co-ops won't work, because the uninsured won't support them. They want Obama and the Democrat party to do everything for them, without any personal responsibility or expense for themselves.

    June 10, 2009 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  4. UNHAPPY LA. Dem

    Health care needs to be left alone.Socialized medicine has been proven time and time again not to work. In a years time it will be so screwed up it will never work again. Look at the British system.

    June 10, 2009 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  5. barking republican ankle biters

    I will just say NO to what ever republicans come up with,just like they have done for years.

    June 10, 2009 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  6. S Callahan

    Sounds like they are taking the models of the NYS Union plans...which are pretty good.

    June 10, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  7. Peoples Voice

    Why do the Repubs always have to keep the big companies floating while trying to drown the public. They never do anything for the average citizens.

    What a bunch of selfish, greedy, despicable troglodytes.

    June 10, 2009 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  8. alvino

    The republicans will not support any program that takes away the monoply their campaign donors have created.

    June 10, 2009 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  9. Mick

    It's good to see that the Republicans are doing everything they can to obstruct the will of the people – 0ver 70% demanding reform – to serve the interests of their corporate masters in the Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical industries.

    June 10, 2009 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  10. xargaw

    This is a terrible idea. It still leaves out millions of Americans. We need a real Government option. Follow the insurance company and big pharma money and you will see who is selling out the country from both parties. It is disgraceful. Everyone of them should loose their seat if they ruin this opportunity for universal care.

    June 10, 2009 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  11. Lynn

    Hah! The Repugs will do anything to keep Americans from having health care and to keep the big greedy insurance companies fat so that they can contribute to their campaigns.

    The only way to effectively reduce costs is with a public alternative and that is what we should have.

    June 10, 2009 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  12. Jon

    The progressives with fight this foolishness tooth and nail. This is not a compromise. This is a complete and total sellout to republicans. This is not like a public plan. This is not a compromise about public plan. This is nothing. It would do nothing, and have none of the benifits of a public option.

    June 10, 2009 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  13. democrat no mas(Independant now)

    I have used member owned co-ops for fire insurance, electricity and farm commodities for years. They can work well if losses are not larger than members can overcome. They also need supervision if the directors running them get out of hand with perks & pay. However, they are not free. The only thing is they can give excess premiums back as dividends or credits to member owners. This is probably along the lines of how most insurance companies started, before they got too big for their britches. This doesn't seem to be what most pro government healthcare people want. What they really want is free coverage.

    June 10, 2009 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  14. Hopeful Optimist

    I think the sticking point with Repubs concerning a government-run option is that it will probably not only be cheaper, more accessible and better over all, but it will end up drawing people away from their existing plans with private insurance, thereby wrecking the industry as we currently know it.

    Think about it. Right now there are people in this complex maze of an industry who have a great stake in the gouging and inefficiency that are commonplace as the system now exists. They will fight tooth and toenail to protect their gravytrain. Its human nature. ANY TIME THERE IS A CONCERTED EFFORT TO THWART WHAT IS SO OBVIOUSLY RIGHT, ITS SPEARHEADED BY THOSE WHO HAVE A STAKE IN WHAT IS SO OBVIOUSLY WRONG.

    June 10, 2009 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  15. Really!?

    This maybe the best idea on the subject. Amazing that a rational, possibly sustainable (gov ran is NOT sustainable look at Medicare), solution can be found when both parties work together. Rather than we need to do this right now, pass this trillion dollar legislation crap so far this year.

    June 10, 2009 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |

    I like the single payer system as a option to all who want it.......If not those who like their healthcare currently can keep it. That's a fair and balanced choice for all. However let's see what this co-op plan proposes......DEMS need to grow a pair though. They are refreshingly on the right side of many issues as of now.

    June 10, 2009 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  17. David

    A 'co-op' option is a bad idea. Only a government run 'single payer' option will provide the affordable coverage gap for all Americans, along with being able to maintain control over market pricing of services long term.

    Expecting insurance companies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and doctors to reduce costs all on their own is the same failed 'free market' concept that bankrupt our economy.

    June 10, 2009 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  18. Kevin, Austin

    Note to Mr. Baucus – you don't need a bi-partisian solution, you need the correct solution. What is the objection to a government run plan? And don't give me any hooey about big bad government. They run a large number of successful enterprises everyday that do just fine (schools, police, fire, the military, social security, etc.) Sure the things have their share of problems, but isn't it apparent that the "free" market is rife with corruption and problems too. Or are you just sticking your head in the sand.

    June 10, 2009 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  19. Hope

    We dont want co-ops we want Federal Insurance period.

    June 11, 2009 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  20. Ricky

    If co-ops can provide decent, affordable health care to more people and bridge the gap between Dems and Repubs, go for it! Better a doable compromise instead of partisan deadlock and thus continuation of the a bad status quo. And if this works, who knows ... maybe Dems and Repubs will find they can actually work together instead of against each other. Win-win is much better than win-lose or lose-lose.

    June 11, 2009 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  21. Proud DHS radical

    I guess the government is going to run our health care like they do the Postage Service.

    June 11, 2009 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  22. Manny BLUM, Bernalillo

    This COOP system is essentially what is used in Germany, and does so very well for many years,

    There, all Heath Insurance providers are such type of COOP, competing one with the other. They are non profit and privately managed, following the basic rules as imposed by the government, There are not commer ial HBO's.

    The membership is obligatory and the cost proportional to the income of the beneficiary.

    June 11, 2009 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  23. renea

    I just pray that this universal healthcare passes not for me but for the people that dont have any healthcare at all. all these people that are against this may be you and your family already have it but i think about the ones that dont,even ones in my own family who dont. so im hoping that some kind of healthcare passes.

    June 11, 2009 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  24. Andrew from Chicago

    Non-profit they may be, but how much will I have to pay for it with actual "can buy burritos with them" dollars that come out of my bank account?

    I'd like to see a system that actually supports people who can't afford an insurance bill-sized hole in their income. Give me a medical exam and a vaccination on the government dime, and I'll pay for insurance that gets me surgery as soon as I get a raise.

    at least there's no more mention of the ridiculous notion that we should punish people who are too poor to pay for insurance.

    June 11, 2009 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  25. Mikey

    This is music to my ears. Finally a suggestion that address the root cause for the rampant inflationary trends in health expenditures, health financing providers. It looked for a moment there we might have another Clinton Era failure or Bush Era MMA debacle again.

    June 11, 2009 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
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