Senator Kent Conrad has been touting a proposal to create state-based "non-governmental" "co-ops" in lieu of a national public insurance plan or "Public Option." But how would the coops work?

Conrad has so far declined to provide more than a vague definition of his co-ops and has yet to explain how such entities could function, let alone pose a significant competitive challenge to the nation’s mega insurance companies. These are multi-billion dollar corporations, and a small handful have concentrated the market in most regions of the country.

Along with many others, Senator Jay Rockeller told The Ed Show he has been skeptical that the co-ops could do the job, especially since the concept is not new. But existing co-ops have failed to stall the relentless concentration of the health insurance industry. According to ABC, Rockeller is asking for more scrutiny:

"There are real concerns about the potential impact of health care co-ops on consumers, and we cannot afford to hang our hat on any unproven, unregulated, or unreliable model for health insurance coverage," Rockefeller said in a statement. "At a minimum, we need to know more of the facts."

It’s telling that some Republicans have claimed to be open to the co-op idea. The GOP doesn’t think the insurance companies should face competition — Senator Kyl said today the insurers don’t need to be kept honest — or that Americans should be allowed to choose between private, for-profit insurers and a Public Option. So co-ops must be okay because they would be too week to provide meaningful competition. So how does a co-op stack up against a robust public option?

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Kent Conrad has been getting a free ride, making unproven claims about co-ops but not having to explain how his local co-ops could possibly do the job of "keeping the insurance companies honest" or function at the national level. How exactly would his local co-ops be governed and function at a national level without becoming the same as . . . a government-sponsored national Public Option?

It’s time to start asking Sen. Conrad some tough questions.

From commenter ducksworthy/strong>: Commonwealth article on co-op concept