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Public Option vs. Co-OpAre health insurance co-ops a viable alternative to a public option?

Issue Background

A public health care option, meaning the option for individuals to choose a government-backed universally available health plan, is considered by many to be an essential component of health care reform. But proposed legislation including a public option has attracted a lot of resistance, and it's not clear whether reform with a public option can pass Congress. Co-ops, where individual consumers have the ability to vote for board members and thus exercise some control over their health care provider, are a proposed alternative that is more acceptable to moderates.

Key Arguments

» Yes

  • Government support for co-ops, either through health care vouchers or health care rebates, will give consumers more control over their health care than the current system does and potentially reduce costs. This accomplishes the major goal of health care reform without bringing a large-scale government bureaucracy into existence. Co-ops have proven to be effective health care providers on a smaller scale, and should be considered before taking the enormous step of a public option.

» No

  • Co-ops are an unproven and vague idea that may not accomplish the most important benefit of a public option; namely, a large pool of the insured to spread out costs. A public option would be more likely to provide the scale to guarantee a change in health insurance costs. Medicare and Medicaid are realistic models for how a public option can work, and there is no such model for large-scale, government supported co-ops.


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