Are Negotiations Over The Co-Op Compromise Falling Apart?
It's obviously a big deal that Sen. Chuck Schumer is suggesting that Democrats may need to move forward without significant Republican support if the GOP can't come to some sort of accommodation with the public plan. But I think people are focusing too much on Schumer's comments on the public plan and not enough on the insight he's offering into the negotiations happening on the Finance Committee.
Schumer said Finance Republicans had rejected several proposals designed to beef up the suggested nonprofit insurance co-ops. These included setting up a national structure for the co-ops, $10 billion in government seed money, power to negotiate payment rates to medical providers nationwide and creation of a presidentially appointed board of directors.
This is what we call a "clarifying moment." One of the arguments against the public plan is that it's the thin edge of single-payer wedge. Many liberals, in fact, hope that it will prove exactly that. But "level-playing field plans" -- public plans with no extra subsidies or legislative advantages -- take care of those objections. But that concession from the liberals hasn't been greeted as significant by those across the aisle.
When I spoke to Sen. Kent Conrad about his co-op plan proposal, I asked him why he considered it a concession for his Republican colleagues. His answer was hesitant.
"Ah, you know, you'd have to ask them," he replied. "It would just be my surmise on why some of them don't like it. They really don't want a competitive model, at least some of them."
That appears to be what Schumer is finding. Republicans, he suggests, are standing lockstep even against efforts to create a private co-op system that could offer an alternative to for-profit insurance. Their concern with the co-op plan is not that the government would be taking over the health-care system. It's that the current insurance providers would face unexpectedly aggressive competition in the marketplace. Which raises an interesting, and potentially clarifying, question: Are Republicans in this to preserve the healthy functioning of a competitive private market or preserve the profits of the currently dominant insurance companies?
Photo credit: Harry Hamburg -- Associated Press Photo.
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