Co-op In Name Only

In an AP story, there is a very interesting small piece of news. The report indicates that Senator Baucus is pushing hard to abandon the public option and create a non-profit cooperative instead. What is new, though, is that “Grassley said nothing was finalized yet, and indicated the sticking point was Baucus' insistence that the federal government play a behind-the-scenes role.”

Just how much power the federal government would have “behind the scenes” could dramatically change the nature of the co-op. It is possible that Baucus' goal is to produce a co-op in name only or a true public plan with just a more palatable name.

There are several ways to create a co-op that is directly or indirectly controlled by the government. You could, for example, write the co-op's charter so that its procedures, coverage, and payments are directly tied to Medicare. You could also create a government “health insurance best practices” board that would give “recommendations,” and the co-op would just happen to follow them exactly.

A co-op in name only is unlikely to win the support of almost any Republican, but it might provide the political coverage that a few moderate Democratic senators and two to three Republicans might need, while still winning the support of more liberal businesses.

If Senator Baucus eventually gives into Senator Grassley's demands and makes the co-op completely useless as a replacement to the public option, I predict there will be outright war within the Democratic party. The public option is simply too important to the party's grassroots. It is the one issue that can really rally supporters to make calls and knock on doors. If there is no public option, instead of working hard to pass reform the grassroots may end up killing it.

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