Administration Could Find Compromise in Co-op Plan

"With Republicans fighting the idea of a government-run health insurance plan, members of President Barack Obama's team said Sunday that they are open to a compromise: a cooperative program that would expand coverage with taxpayer money but without direct governmental control," the Associated Press reports. The non-profit, health insurance cooperatives were suggested in Congress by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the concession could be a path to bipartisan health reform legislation (Elliott, 6/15). 

"But Senate Democratic leaders have been cautious in their appraisal of the plan and have said the co-op option would be acceptable only if it works in the same way they envision a public health insurance plan working — as a competitor to private insurance companies that also lowers health care costs," Roll Call reports. Even as Conrad's proposal gained traction with Republicans last week, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., demanded that "any co-op would have to be national in scope, would need a large infusion of startup cash from the federal government, and would need to bar insurance industry insiders from servicing on its board." The GOP said those demands were problematic (Drucker and Pierce, 6/15).

In a Sunday talk show spree, Republicans "continued to express strong concerns over the Obama administration's plan to reform health care and its call for a public insurance option," the New York Times reports.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on CBS's "Face the Nation": "We know that, if the government gets in this business, pretty soon nobody else will be in the business… There are a whole lot of other things we can agree to do on a bipartisan basis that will dramatically improve our system.”

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, on "Fox News Sunday": "There is a lot of waste in government-run programs generally, and a lot of waste and fraud and misuse of money in Medicare and Medicaid that can be saved… But right now, I could not put a figure on that amount of money. There is some savings there that can be made and ought to be made, whether or not we are doing things for health care reform or not."

Kaiser Health News looks into the Puget Sound-based health co-op, a model for Sen. Conrad's proposal , with an interview with Group Health Cooperative's Pam MacEwan: "We are a coordinated care organization like an HMO. We began as a cooperative 60 years ago, so that we're actually capitalized by the members and they set up cooperative governance ... We have 23 clinics. We have doctors. We have nurses. Then we also do the financing of health care, so we have the insurance mechanisms as well. That whole operation is governed by consumers, and that's the part that's really unusual about Group Health" (Gold, 6/15).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.