Working Towards Health Care for All: 10 Essential Characteristics of a Cooperative
One key question lawmakers are debating in current health reform discussions is how to effectively expand coverage to more people, while also ensuring that coverage is adequate and affordable. Some policymakers believe that a public plan is the best solution a government-sponsored program that would offer coverage alongside private organizations like Group Health. Others believe that a public option of this kind is unnecessary, that needed changes to our nation's coverage system can be forced by imposing new federal rules and regulations on the insurance market.
Also see: Health Reform Glossary of Common Terms
As the debate between these two groups has intensified over the last few months, a third path has emerged: cooperatives. Sen. Kent Conrad and some of his colleagues in both the U.S. House and Senate would like to provide federal seed funding and oversight to support the creation of new health care cooperatives at the state or regional level. Their goal is to bring health care coverage to more citizens with the benefits that member-run, efficient, high-quality systems can bring, while preserving a functioning private market that will continue to drive innovation and value.
Group Health Cooperative, as a consumer-governed nonprofit organization that provides both health coverage and care, has been held up as a model for these new entities, and we have been asked for our opinion about this proposal. We believe that no matter what health reform's approach to expanding coverage and reforming the health insurance market looks like whether a public plan, cooperative, or simply imposing new federal rules and regulations we can't fix the fundamental problems with health care in this country unless we also change the way health care is delivered and financed.
If health reform includes a cooperative proposal, Group Health believes there are some essential characteristics those cooperatives should have in order to successfully engage members in their health and wellness and help drive the health care system toward higher-quality, more affordable health care for all.
In our view, a health care cooperative would: