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Just what did Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota have in mind when he insisted that the health care reform bill in Congress contain provisions for medical co-ops? Chuck Haga of the Grand Forks Herald writes that it is the Wilson Health Planning Cooperative now forming in an 11-county region of western North Dakota (scene above). 

The co-op started in 2002 as residents looked at ways to reduce poverty in the area. “We were a little startled to see how direct the connections were — how poor health leads to poverty, and how poverty leads to poor health,” one organizer told Haga. The co-op is named for a family doctor who serviced the area for more than half a century. Dr. Herbert Wilson is on the board of the co-op and he describes a careful process of organization that included 10 open meetings in the region. Haga wrote the organizers learned that people “want the cooperative to be local and self-governing, available to all, affordable and offering high quality care. They want it to cover a broad range of health services, from preventive care to family medicine to hospice care. And they want a diverse makeup to their cooperative, pulling private insurers, the Veterans Administration, the Indian Health Service and other interests together, which they believe would provide efficiencies, cost savings and easier accessibility.”

The co-op has designed a “Wilson health card” bearing a picture of the doctor and is now trying to see how it can fit in with federal legislation.

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