More than 12 million people could ultimately buy their insurance under a co-op-styled structure, which would make it the nation's third-largest provider of health insurance and give it enough ballast to drive down the costs of other private payers, according to one of its architects, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).
Under such a structure, groups could bond together to build a critical mass of people, who would then collectively bargain with insurance companies for lower premiums and more benefits. Conrad said the proposal would give states wide berth to join together, as well.
The measure would require an upfront federal investment of $6 billion, which would be part of a financial reserve. An interim board would also be appointed by HHS and would be charged with setting policy and actuarial values.
Conrad detailed the plan before going into a negotiating session with a small, bipartisan group of Senate Finance Committee members. The committee is strongly leaning toward adopting co-ops instead of a public health plan, which Republicans have railed against.