What's Going On With The Public Plan?

This weekend, it looked like the Obama administration was shying away from insisting on a public option as part of health care reform. Today, an aide wrote that the president will continue to fight for the creation of a public health insurance plan.

The notion that the administration was giving up on the public plan ruffled a lot of feathers on the left. Even if it's apparently back on the table, there's going to be huge hurdles to passing it. Yesterday, Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, a ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said that there simply aren't enough votes in the Senate in favor of the plan. His committee is likely to endorse a regional health-care co-op program.

If you're confused about what these co-ops are all about, there's a great explainer over at Reuters. In short, these co-ops involve a form of health insurance wherein all policyholders have some ownership rights, and, more importantly, don't have to worry about turning a profit. The government would provide money to help set up national, state, and regional co-ops. However, co-ops already exist, and few have managed to be successful competitors to major insurance companies. If the point of a public plan is to provide a viable, competitive, nonprofit alternative to private insurers, co-ops may not be able to cut it.

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