Re: Not So Fast

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Pushback on yet another front: The emerging deal the bipartisan negotiators of the Finance Committee (whom some of their colleagues have begun to refer to as “the Coalition of the Willing“) isn’t going over so well with all the Democrats on the panel.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, who chairs Finance’s health subcommittee (and who hasn’t been in the room with the bipartisan group), isn’t enomored with their idea to substitute a private “cooperative” arrangement for the public plan that liberals would like to see in the health bill. “There are real concerns about the potential impact of health care co-ops on consumers, and we cannot afford to hang our hat on any unproven, unregulated, or unreliable model for health insurance coverage. At a minimum, we need to know more of the facts,” Rockefeller said in a statement today. He also has sent a letter to the GAO asking it to look into just how well existing cooperatives have been regulated. Here are some of the questions that Rockefeller would like to see answered:

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Rockefeller has sent similarly pointed inquiries to the National Cooperative Business Association and the Department of Agriculture.

I think these are some pretty good questions. The truth is, I haven’t been able to find anyone (including the member of the Finance Committee I asked) who can tell me exactly how these co-ops might work. And these details are important. When I asked President Obama on Tuesday afternoon whether a cooperative would meet his definition of an acceptable public option, here’s what he had to say:

Well, I think in theory you can imagine a co-operative meeting that definition. Obviously sort of the legal structure of it is less important than practically how can it operate. There are concerns that in the past, attempts at setting up co-ops have not been successful because they just haven’t been able to get off the ground; sort of the start-up energy involved may not exist if you’re doing a state-by-state co-op effort as opposed to a broad national plan.

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