President Obama Considering Insurance Co-Op

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The notion of a government run health insurance option has started a loud debate on both sides.

Sunday, President Obama's administration said the White House is willing to abandon that idea and look at alternatives. One of the alternatives is an insurance co-op. That idea has both the White House and a Republican opponent of the President's health care reform in agreement.

A government-run health insurance program is one of the issues that's turned town hall meetings across the country into screaming matches. Sunday, the Obama administration signaled it's instead, now open to the idea of a non-profit health insurance cooperative that would provide competition in the marketplace.

Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary discusses the idea of a co-op instead of a health insurance program.

"That's really the essential part, is you don't turn over the whole new marketplace to private insurance companies and trust them to do the right thing. We need some choices, we need some competition," Sebelius says.

The proposed insurance co-op would get off the ground with the help of government money, but then it would operate independently. Membership run and controlled.
Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota drew some comparisons.
"Land O'Lakes is a cooperative. Ace Hardware is a cooperative. The Associated Press is a cooperative. We have successful cooperatives in health care. Group health in Seattle has 600,000 people and it's the most highly rated plan in the state of Washington. So this is a model that works," Conrad says.

But selling Americans on the idea of insurance co-ops could be as much of a challenge as it was to sell government-run health care. Many people just don't know what it is.

Still, no one has proposed how the co-op would absorb the nation's 50 million uninsured. But getting Republicans on-board with health reform is also a factor.

Senator Richard Shelby a Republican from Alabama says, "It would be a -- I believe a step in the right direction, away from a government takeover of our health care in this country."

It's an idea that both sides believe could make health insurance reform a reality.

The president has been traveling the past few days holding town meetings to dispel rumors and answer questions about the complicated health care reform.

He was in Grand Junction yesterday and this morning, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter went on "Meet the Press", and backed the President's health care reform, saying those who have heard President Obama speak are impressed with his vision.