Health Care Co-Op Gaining Support Among Senate Democrats


Democrats Open to Idea Of Forming Health Co-op


WASHINGTON -- Senate Democratic leaders appeared open Thursday to establishing a non-government cooperative as part of a U.S. health-care overhaul.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Charles Schumer said they were amenable to considering a cooperative -- perhaps in lieu of a government-run insurance plan -- to compete with private insurers as part of the effort to reduce the country's health-care costs and expand coverage to uninsured Americans.

The public competitor should "keep the companies honest be available right at the beginning to everybody, and have the strength to borrow," Mr. Schumer said. "If it can do those things in a co-op form, I think we're open to it."

President Barack Obama has pushed for the establishment of a government-run health plan in the overhaul, but many Republicans have opposed a public plan, saying it would pose unfair competition to private insurers.

It was unclear whether Republicans would support a health cooperative, which could require a heavy infusion of start-up funding from -- and initial management by -- the federal government. A co-op with close ties to the government might be viewed by Republicans as a predecessor to a government-run plan.

"I've heard more positives than negatives on co-ops from Republicans," said Sen. Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican from Maine. But Ms. Snowe warned that "if it's one and the same, it would be problematic, definitely."

The White House and Democratic leaders hope to pass health-care legislation by autumn. The challenge is how to pay for the overhaul, which is estimated to cost upward of $1 trillion over 10 years.

Party Like It's 2006:
I'd only support this if the goal was to eventually transform it into a public plan.


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