America's got a little problem with health insurance--it's too expensive, inefficient, and hard to get. So Congress and the White House are trying to find a solution, which Barack Obama promised during the campaign would include a public insurance option. But that's stalemated in Congress, and, as with so many campaign promises, Obama's threatening to brush it off (like dirt off his shoulders). What would be the option if we didn't get a public one?
Group Health, says the Senate Finance Committee. Or rather, nonprofit cooperatives, of which local insurer Group Health, the New York Times notes, is seen as a leading example. The idea is that insurers like Group Health, with reinvested profits, accountable doctors, and a focus on doctor/patient interaction and preventive care, will introduce the competition to drive prices down, making health care more affordable.
It hasn't necessarily worked in Washington state, where one in five people is currently uninsured (and that doesn't count the underinsured). And, the article notes, Group Health is less come-one, come-all than it used to be; for example, it now varies premiums by health status. But the Senate Finance Committee--which has a few ties to the health care and insurance industries--seems to think that the Group Health model might work on a bigger scale (co-ops could band together to increase bargaining power) and set off fewer "evil big government" alarms than the low-overhead efficiency and instant bargaining power of a government plan.