Republicans: A Co-op Plan Is Government-Run Health Care

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That's what the Republican National Committee is now saying, with some help from Senate Majority Leader Harry Read. The RNC forwarded a press release/research memo to reporters today claiming that a "'public option' by any other name is still government health care." But does it smell as sweet? Probably not to supporters of a true public option, and it was perhaps out of a desire to alleviate those concerns (and pose a future co-op passage as a White House victory) that Reid deemed co-ops as "some type of public option" in early July--a quote the RNC references prominently.

Neither of them are really right: co-ops would get started with government loans and grants, and the government would come up with the regulations, but they'd be owned by customers. Problem is, it's hard to say it's the same as government-run health care without Republicans coming back at you and saying...the same thing.

Reid's comment was sort of offhand in its phrasing--"call it 'co-op,' call it what you want"--but it's become fodder in the health debate nonetheless.

Qualms about government-run health coverage are exactly what Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) sought to alleviate by introducing the co-op proposal, at the behest of the 11 senators tasked with shepherding health reform through the upper chamber (read Conrad's FAQ on the co-op proposal here).

The idea is that co-ops (whether it's one national co-op, state co-ops, or a national co-op with state affiliates) would serve the same function as government-administered health insurance, in that they'd operate as non-profits and perhaps utilize some added bargaining power or lower payment rates, thus forcing for-profit insurance companies to drive their own costs down, out of sheer economic necessity, once they had to compete with a non-profit that had some consumer cost advantages.

But it would do so specifically without being a government-run plan--and that's the line both Reid and the RNC blurred.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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