Alternate Plan as Health Option Muddies Debate - NYTimes.com
This is a news article about the "health care cooperatives" under discussion as an alternative to the government-run public plan. I think the whole thing is stupid. We already have co-ops. Most of the Blue Cross Blue Shield plans are non-profit co-ops. All of them started that way, but some have since been bought by private companies or gone public on the stock market. They're practically an arm of the government anyway; they provide Medicare benefits, administer the federal employees' health plan, and most union health plans.
In the article I linked, Rep. Pomeroy, D-ND is quoted as saying “The market here is uncompetitive,” said Mr. Pomeroy, a former state insurance commissioner. “A cooperative could provide an alternative source of insurance and some interesting competition for premium dollars. A co-op could operate at lower costs, in part because it would not need to pay its executives so generously as the local Blue Cross Blue Shield plan.”
Generously? It says right there in the same article that BCBS of North Dakota is already a non-profit member-owned co-op. Their chief exec, Paul von Ebers, is paid $500,000, with the potential for a $250,000 bonus. That might seem like a lot of money, but it's peanuts for executive pay. If he get the bonus, is 15 times what I'm paid. Still, if you consider that the ratio of CEO to average worker pay was 262 to 1 in 2006
*, then 15 to 1 seems very reasonable. If Ebers donated his salary back to the company and distributed it to BCBS-ND members, everybody would get $1.75. I don't think his compensation is a problem.
I'd rather see a single-payer system, maybe phased in gradually through expanding Medicare eligibility. Insurance works by pooling risk, and it's tough to get a bigger risk pool than everyone in the country
. An organization that size would have even more leverage over providers and drug/equipment companies. Congress and the President would have a strong incentive to keep satisfaction with the system high, or we vote their butts out. I can't possibly imagine it could be more bureaucratic and unwieldy than our current system.
*In the interest of fairness, here's an article
with a different perspective on that ratio number.