Let’s say the analysis is accurate: that insurance premiums are too high, that drug prices are too high, that medical expenses in general are too high. Let’s also agree that these costs are hurting our country’s health care plans and the availability of medical care to some 45 million. Let’s agree that this approaches the biggest problems we are facing.
Now let’s agree on one more: that competition with those insurance and drug companies could and would make a difference.
Is the co-op the best competitive alternative?
Here are a few paragraphs from Timothy Egan in a piece I read today on the Co-op alternative:
But if you get sick in that land of deep lakes and ponderosa pines,
a consumer-governed, nonprofit health care provider — Group Health
Cooperative of Puget Sound — offers extensive coverage at some of the
lowest premiums in the nation. And if you need advice on bailing twine
or baby chicks, the Co-op Country Store, now in its 75th year, can
provide service that the nearby Home Depot cannot.
I mention these successful member-owned businesses in a deeply red
state because as the public health care option gets hammered by a
campaign of disinformation, the co-op model deserves a fair hearing.
Plus, co-ops are built around something that’s been missing thus far
in a debate dominated by ill-informed shouters: the consumer.
The West is the native ground of co-ops. It’s in our collective DNA. People buy their tents, sleeping bags and bikes from the nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI, founded in Seattle in 1938, now with 3.5 million active members. It’s consistently rated one of the best places to work in the United States.
Here in Seattle, a city known for a certain kind of caffeinated
capitalism, Group Health is a major market player, and a big reason why
our health care premiums are cheaper than those in most cities. We also
have public power, giving us some of the lowest electrical rates
anywhere, and a chain of co-op grocery stores, which I find a bit too
granola-crunchy for my tastes, but which others swear by.
But if there’s any doubt a health care co-op can work, ask the people
who own one, including more than 11,000 consumers in the sparsely
populated, deeply Republican north of Idaho.