Health care co-ops

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, – “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.


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2 Responses to Health care co-ops

  1. Bernard says:

    I just read an entry on KOS that I think states the issue pretty clearly. You can find it here:,-and-Why-Co-ops-Dont-Fit-the-Bill

    The main point about all this is that as it stands now, the co-op insurance plan is simply a way of killing the public option. And I am afraid that if the NCBA and all of us involved in the co-op movement don’t speak out, the whole co-operative sector will be played as fools.

  2. Arthur Bough says:


    Given the attacks on the NHS by Republicans and others on the Right in the US, aided and abetted by some of our own Right-Wing politicians, the discussion on US Healthcare Reforms is of interest to us over here. Unfortunately, as most of the left remains trapped in a Statist mentality, most of the response is simply to defend the NHS rather than to point out its real – as opposed to ridiculously fanciful – shortcomings deriving from the fact that it is after all a bureaucatic state capitalist organisation, and not in any sense socialist or udner the control of workers.

    In that regard your readers may be interested in my latest blog that deals with these issues, and what a socialist alternative might be both for the US and for Europe.

    It is here .

    I would welcome any comments North American comrades might have.

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