Are health care co-ops the answer for reforming the system?

The Kansas City StarAugust 18, 2009 

The day after the Obama administration hinted it might drop the option of publicly supported health insurance, politicians and taxpayers scrambled to understand what the alternative to public insurance might look like.

One possibility is health insurance cooperatives. "Co-ops" would provide competition for private insurers, making many Democrats happy, but would not be run by the government, pleasing most Republicans.

Details, though, are sketchy.

"I don't know if that's a new dress on the same old girl or not," said Tom Bowser of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City.

But Bowser and others said the co-op proposal shows some movement toward compromise. They said that might revive momentum for comprehensive health care reform after an August of heated town hall meetings stalled that push.

Here's a look at the latest wrinkle in the debate.

What’s a health insurance co-op?

A private, nonprofit organization — most likely one in every state — would compete with for-profit companies to offer coverage to individuals and perhaps businesses.

How would a co-op work?

Individuals seeking insurance would go to an "exchange" that would list available health care plans, both from private companies and the co-op. The customer could compare prices and coverage and choose a carrier.

The co-op, as a nonprofit enterprise, would in theory provide the same coverage as the private companies at a slightly lower price. That would force private insurers to lower their prices to compete.

To read the complete article, visit www.kansascity.com.

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