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.
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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."