Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cooperatives: Health Care bipartisan approach

The ramming of health care has stalled in Congress, partly thanks to Blue Dog Democrats, to give bipartisan plans a chance. Although the Democrats hold majority in both houses and do not require a bipartisan approach to pass health care reform; yet a stalemate has taken place. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Reed came out last week and made it clear that a full Senate vote on health care will not take place prior to the August break.

Yesterday a bipartisan group of Senators locked themselves in a private meeting to hash out a bipartisan plan. The major sticking point on the health care debate is the public plan and to what degree of intrusion will Americans accept by government buacracy with their health care. President Obama has, in the past, drawn a line in the sand that he will not sign any health care reform bill that is void of a public option.

Several comments have taken place on my blog entries, mainly on Facebook, on health care. An underlying current is to empower the patient and remove the shackles the insurance companies have on the system. Perhaps the plan of a bipartisan group of Senators will accomplish that through the notion of cooperatives.

Noam Levey and Janet Hook define cooperatives, in their article The Centrist Alternative on Healthcare: Cooperatives, as “owned by their members, are structured as nonprofits and either offer a system of healthcare providers or contract out for their members’ medical services.” Sen. Kent Conrad has been an advocate of cooperatives as it’s a patient controlled option rather than a government public option. Sen. Conrad concedes that “Every single Republican is opposed to a public plan. If one just does the numbers, it’s very clear to get the votes, you’ve got to find some compromise here.”

Karen Davis, president of the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund, states “Setting up new cooperatives is just going to take longer” since it will be more difficult to replicated cooperative nationwide versus creation of a public plan. Are we to trade expediency for true reform? Granted cooperatives are historically a rural program and many in larger cities have little experience in dealing with cooperatives. That being said, the bipartisan plan shouldn’t be shoved aside for a public option.

Brian Beutler writes, in his article Obama to Grassley: I’m Interested in Alternatives to The Public Option, “Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) – ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee – says President Obama’s insistence on a public option might actually be a public show.” Sen. Grassley may be right as President Obama has softened his stance on the August deadline. David Axelrod has stated to in order to improve the health care system, “Everyone is going to have to give a little to get there.”

President Obama admitted in the AARP town hall meeting yesterday that “It’s so obvious that the system we have isn’t working for too many people and that we could just be doing better.” Everyone agrees with this statement but many disagree that the public plan is the right path to take. While a national cooperative may be too large and complex to establish, a blueprint can be established that gives local communities the “seed money” to form cooperatives.

Cooperatives for health care already exist in California, Minnesota, and the Pacific Northwest. In all locations the cooperatives have been able to lower costs while keeping the focus on patient care both elements of reform everyone wants. So why emulate a public option, similar to Medicare, for the nation that has proven nothing but bankruptcy when options exists around the nation that have already achieved two core elements of health care reform; lowering cost and patient focused?