All of us who have some connection to the co-op community have been scrambling to respond to the current national discussion about health care plans. As the so-called public option slips from the White House agenda and the notion of a “co-op plan” seems to be gaining ground our response is all the more necessary.
Some weeks ago I wrote a short review of co-op health care as a grassroots endeavor in Canada and Japan.
The main point to keep in mind about this discussion revolves around definitions. Or in other words – what are we talking about. The current national discussion focuses on insurance schemes. If all that we do is tweak insurance coverage, even as co-ops (or mutuals as the insurance industry refers to them), we are talking nonsense and the left Democratic critique holds – the co-ops will not have leverage to lower costs.
If however we are talking about doctors and consumers organizing their own health care co-ops – with government subsidizing membership for those who cannot afford membership, then we are on the path to a real alternative to privatized health care.
Recently an old associate of Obama from Chicago, John K. Wilson, wrote a defense of the co-op insurance scheme. It is worthwhile reading it to understand how someone who would be called a defender of the co-op sector, and who appears to be politically savvy, can be so confused.
Here is the concluding paragraph from John’s blog, obamapolitics.com – “In Defense of Co-ops”
Progressives have been given a tremendous opportunity
here. The right-wing and the insurance industry has (sic)
concentrated all of their opposition to health care
reform against the idea of a government-run insurance
plan. Utilizing a co-op undermines all of their efforts
while achieving virtually the same (and perhaps even
better) results as a public plan.
There is a BIG assumption here that the co-op insurance plan will compete successfully with the monopolistic insurance. John’s plan presumes one –big national co-op. It is difficult for me to believe that the insurance companies and their lackeys in Washington will go for that. So what follows I question:
The Blue Dog Democrats have only criticized a public plan,
while largely embracing the idea of a co-op. This means that
the exact details of a co-op plan can be moved in a
progressive direction without compromising any votes.
It will be almost impossible for any Blue Dog (and even
some moderate Republicans) to vote against a solid,
progressive co-op plan for health care reform.
John K. Wilson is the author of President Barack
Obama: A More Perfect Union
The entire blog, as I said, is worth reading, as is NCBA’s responses to questions from Senator Rockefeller.