EDITORIAL >> Health cooperatives and First Electric
In that vein, it might be called admirable that those who have enjoyed tax-funded health care for years are finally recognizing that many in the country are in need of coverage as well. The problem of offering affordable care while appeasing the insurance sector has led congressional moderates to consider the idea of cooperatives as an alternative to a public insurance plan.
They would be a welcome option if health co-ops were to operate similarly to our own First Electric Co-op, which was created in Jacksonville in 1938 to help poor Arkansans who couldn’t afford to buy it from a privately owned company that then had a monopoly on the state’s power.
But particulars haven’t yet surfaced on how such a system would function. Like most watered-down political solutions created in hopes of pleasing everybody, the co-op idea hasn’t gained a lot of proponents. The insurance industry doesn’t like it because co-ops would mean potential competition for them, the same reason it’s pushed billions of dollars into lobbying Congress in an attempt to get members to abandon a public-health option.
Liberals don’t like the idea either because it doesn’t guarantee that people in need of insurance or improved coverage would get it. Co-ops create buying power; they aren’t necessarily producers. As health insurance providers, they could essentially function as brokers.
Cooperative health-care plans wouldn’t be safeguarded against skyrocketing administrative costs either, which is why Americans now pay too much for care.
There’s more reason to give pause at the government having a hand in setting up quasi-public programs that have to do with health care. In 2003, the Medicare Modernization Act was intended to help seniors pay for prescription drugs. It gave them the option of signing up for privately run programs that paid for drugs to a limit. Remember the donut hole? That’s where millions of seniors were left when the private companies refused to pay for their drugs after they’d maxed out their small benefits. The program shifted costs on to the elderly, their families and state governments.
Seniors aren’t the only ones in need of a fair system who are getting sick in America. Affordable health care needs to be available to young people, too. They deserve higher wages that haven’t been possible in recent years due to employers’ soaring health-care costs.
A sustained America isn’t possible without real health insurance.