Rockefeller to Baucus, Conrad: Co-ops Are a Sham, Public Option Is a Must

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When it became clear several weeks ago that negotiators on the Senate Finance Committee were planning to pursue a private co-op model instead of a public option in their health reform bill, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)–a senior member of that committee, and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee–undertook a study into the history and effectiveness of health insurance co-operatives.

As part of that study, he asked the Government Accountability Office to bring together all of the research it had done over the years into the effectiveness of co-ops in the insurance market. Today, he sent a fairly scathing letter to Finance chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and chief co-op advocate Kent Conrad (D-ND) regarding the results.

Rockefeller, who says he regards the public option as a “must,” writes, “there has been no significant research into consumer co-ops as a model for the broad expansion of health insurance. What we do know, however, is that this model was tried in the early part of the 20th century and largely failed.”He adds that “consumer health insurance cooperatives identified by the USDA and NCBA operate and function just like private health insurance companies….This further substantiates my point that health insurance co-ops are not a real alternative to private health insurance and they are not a substitute for a strong public plan option, and we should not suggest to the American people that they would be.”

“It seems to me,” he scolds, “that, if you are proposing to implement consumer health insurance co-ops on the scale contemplated by the Finance Committee, then you certainly should know what has been the experience with them so far…. I believe it is irresponsible to invest over $6 billion in a concept that has not proven to provide quality, affordable health care, when we know that a public health insurance option will rein in costs and save taxpayers billions of dollars.”

You can read the entire letter here.

Yesterday, Rockefeller announced that he can not support Baucus’ health care reform proposal without significant changes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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