The Co-Op Cop Out

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


So. The public option has been thrown overboard, and we’re back to co-ops. As I’ve pointed out previously, the co-op scheme is a weak, nearly meaningless idea that would represent no real alternative to business-as-usual in the health insurance industry.

In the best-case scenario—which is far from guaranteed—the co-ops might have a less corporate governance structure than other insurers and receive federal subsidies for startup costs and more expansive coverage. In the worst-case scenario, they would effectively be private insurance companies operating under another name. And at least some of the initial capital will, in all likelihood, come from members. All the out-of-work Americans who are too poor to buy insurance will appreciate that.
 

Much is being made of the fact that the co-ops would be non-profits. But so what? Almost half of Americans with private health insurance are currently covered by non-profit plans. As a whole, those plans haven’t proven to be much better or cheaper than for-profit insurers, and they still fail to cover 50 million Americans.

Supporters of the co-ops also insist that they will offer real competition to the private insurers, and bring down costs for their members by giving them bargaining power with health care providers.

In fact, as the State of the Division blog points out, it’s conceivable that private, for-profit companies could get in the back door of the co-op plan. What’s to stop a co-op from actually licensing itself out to a private insurance company—or hiring one to administer its fledging business? 

 

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate