Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told MSNBC that he wouldn’t be able to vote for a health care reform bill that gives him “everything he wants” unless “more than four Republicans” also support it. Grassley also told Iowa reporters that dropping the public option “might be an opportunity to get a bill,” adding that he’s “willing to look at a co-op as long as it functions traditionally, like co-ops do in the United States.”
But the reaction of prominent Republicans, conservatives, and the insurance industry to the idea of “a nonprofit health care cooperative as an alternative to a new government insurance plan” indicates that such a concession would not lead to the “overwhelming vote in the United States Senate” that Grassley says he wants. For instance, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told the New York Times, “You can call it a co-op, which is another way of saying a government plan.”
On Fox News yesterday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) agreed with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto’s claim that a co-op is really a “trojan horse”:
DEMINT: Whatever they call it Neil, this is a government takeover. They may try to call it a co-op. They can call it a public option, but you know they’re all on record saying they want a single payer government system, so any Republican now that helps them pass a bill is helping them pass a government takeover of health care. My hope is we can stop this and start over with some real reform. A number of us have been talking about ideas that we know would work, but unfortunately this administration and the Democrat majority, they really don’t want insurance reform at this point. What they want is more government control of our health care system.
“Any Republican senator who helps them pass something with a government stamp on it, the way they’re talking about, is, I think, just betraying the American people,” added DeMint. Watch it:
Health insurance lobbyist Karen Ignagni, one of the top opponents of a public option, was not receptive to a co-op either. “It may sound benign, but it may use administered prices,” Ignagni told the New York Times. “I’m not sure it solves any problems.” The Republican National Committee released a memo yesterday attacking the co-op, saying the public option “by any other name is still government-run health care.”
Substantially, the problem with the co-op idea is that it lacks “the main advantage of the public option,” which is “reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals set by federal law” that are “central to the cost-saving promise of a government-run health plan and a potentially powerful competitive advantage.” This is one reason why Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), the creator of the co-op option, was unable to say this morning that a co-op will bring down the costs of health care.