June 22nd, 2009
06:00 PM ET
13 years ago

Negotiations over health care co-ops at impasse


[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/29/art.captulips0429.gi.jpg caption="Negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over health care reform have stalled."]Washington (CNN) - Negotiations between key Democrats and Republicans in the Senate over health insurance co-ops as an alternative to a government-run health plan were at an impasse Monday over how much federal government involvement there should be in the creation and running of the co-ops, according to senators and aides involved in the talks.

The negotiations could hold the key to bipartisan compromise.

Most Democrats want a heavy federal presence to ensure the co-ops can adequately compete with the big insurers and help drive down costs, but Republicans say they will back co-ops only if the touch from Washington is very light. Republicans say anything more that that is akin to the government-run proposal they uniformly reject.

"It's clear they are not talking about anything close to a national plan with enough clout to keep the insurance companies honest," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY.

Schumer, an influential member of the Democratic leadership, has been working behind the scenes on a co-op plan that Democrats can live with.

A Democratic aide familiar with Schumer's discussions tells CNN that he presented Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA and other Senate GOP negotiators four proposals crucial for Democratic support: Ensuring co-op insurance plans would be available nationwide; infusing the co-op option with at least $10 billion federal dollars to get started; making sure they have collective bargaining power to keep costs down; creating a federally chartered board to administer the co-op.

Grassley rejected Schumer's proposals, telling CNN that would put the federal government at too much risk - reminiscent of the troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. "We don't want to make that mistake again," Grassley said.

Despite the division over exactly how to create them, the broad co-op proposal is not dead, several sources said.

In fact, several Senate sources involved in the talks tell CNN that the co-op proposal is likely to be part of a Finance Committee bill when it emerges – possibly later this week - from intense, behind-the-scenes, bipartisan talks in the Capitol.

That is the reason Schumer is now going public with his private push for a more robust federal role in any co-op proposal – to "plant the flag," according to source, on what most Democrats are willing to accept in any bipartisan compromise that involves health care cooperatives instead of a government run insurance option.

But Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee and the man Democrats call the key to any bipartisan compromise, says he won't accept the concept of health insurance co-ops if it has too much government interference.

"I would ask Sen. Schumer if he would just forget about the federal government assuming some risk and putting a massive amount of money into it - except for maybe loans that have to be paid back - and go along with the cooperative movement as we've known it for 150 years in America, I think we'd have a compromise," Grassley told CNN.

Filed under: Healthcare
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Willy Brown

    Ok ok. when are you all going to say you made a mistake by voting for Barry. He's clueless come on now. The jokes over.

    June 22, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  2. Jim

    Why is it that the Republicans are so dead set against us having the same health care that they enjoy at the expense of the American tax payers. Let those that oppose give up their insurance and struggle to make the bills like the rest of us. How dare they vote against heath care! If health care fails, they so shall the Republican party.

    June 22, 2009 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  3. Gary

    Coops are okay, actually we can do that today without any change in the laws. The basic problem is that if we include 16 million more people it will cost $1 trillion over 10 years. If we want to cover all 47 million uninsured it will likely cost $3 trillion over 10 years. Frankly we don't have the money to do it – we've borrowed too much already and already have a social security, medicare and medicaid system that will go bankrupt. We can't just put huge taxes on people – – we have to get more people to work. We need a requirement that says everyone must work. No one gets government subsidized healthcare unless they work 40 to 45 hours per week. More people working raises our GDP which lowers our healthcare to GDP ratio, less money need to spend and more money in government tax revenue. Working people commit fewer crimes and have more pride, independence and sense of accomplishment. We need to stop just thinking in terms of healthcare availability and more in terms of changing the fundamental culture in our country.

    June 22, 2009 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  4. 2pacolypse Now

    My goodness, people. 78% of all Americans, that's us you elected ninkompoop democrats want a public option to go along with the private insurers. What can't you understand about that. 86% of Democrats want this public option as well. If our majority democrat controlled house can't get united to get this done, then WE NEED TO ELECT NEW DEMOCRATS who aren't scared of the GOP and have some backbone.

    June 22, 2009 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  5. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    Democrats don't trust anyone outside of government, sensible people don't trust anyone in government–that's the impasse.

    June 22, 2009 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  6. verneta

    whatever they finally come up with must resist too much government control, and above all,never in any way restrict americans rights to see the doctor of their choice,whenever they need healthcare. They say now this won't happen, but i belive it is a promise they either cannot or will not keep and that frightens me very much.

    June 22, 2009 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  7. lovable liberal

    It's really simple: Real health care reform has at minimum a public option. Much of Washington appears to want fake health care reform.

    June 22, 2009 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |