Government Run-Health Coops Would be Different

Re: "The insurance co-op is already in your neighborhood," Aug. 19

State Farm is an admirably run insurer, but its structure may not have many lessons for health insurance reform. Such mutual insurance companies, in fact, are already common in the health care arena. For example, in the D.C. area both Kaiser Permenente and CareFirst BlueCross/BlueShield already operate on a not-for-profit, non-stock basis just like State Farm. Although mutual companies may well have a stronger customer-orientation than stockholder controlled companies, they charge similar prices and have product lineups that are often indistinguishable from their for-profit counterparts. The co-ops currently being proposed in Congress would work quite a bit differently from either State Farm or the many existing non-profit health insurers. An honest debate requires that both proponents and opponents of co-ops admit this.