North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad (above) is reaching into rural America’s past to find a solution to the nation’s health care problem. (Health care in this country costs too much, has only mediocre results and it leaves 45 million with no coverage at all.) Conrad suggests creating health care co-ops to compete with private insurers. “Mr. Conrad said his proposal stems from his experience with the rural electricity, farming and telephone co-ops in his state that are owned and run by members,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
There aren’t many details to the co-op scheme, although it is gaining favor among Senate Democrats. The notion is that the co-op would sell insurance to small businesses or individuals, who would then become part owners of the entity. These co-ops would negotiate rates and maybe even hire some of their own doctors.
There are those who don’t think much of the idea. They point out that the Blue insurance companies started out as non-profits. Half of all people covered in the U.S. are in non-profit health plans, says another critic, yet there is no difference in prices. Another criticism might be that electric co-ops aren’t always great for consumers either. The leaders of a large Texas rural electric cooperative were indicted for arranging payments of co-op money to relatives of co-op executives.