Health co-op starts in western Wisconsin - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Health co-op starts in western Wisconsin

EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - As much of the national health care debate focuses on co-ops right now, lawmakers might look to western Wisconsin for ideas.  

Cooperative Health Choices of Western Wisconsin is a newer option for coverage. The goal is to pool small businesses together as one to increase their bargaining power to help lower rates.  

This co-op, known as CHC, covers 17 counties in western Wisconsin and as of Tuesday, almost 300 employers have expressed interest. That includes everything from some local governments to those who are self-employed. If you add up employees and dependents, the co-op says it has a potential pool of 4,700.

Its goal is to begin coverage in October. Businesses that didn't sign up the first time around, but are interested, could have another chance in the next six months or so.

In recent days, co-ops have been gaining momentum on the federal stage. There have been signs the president was willing to bypass the so-called public option for other ideas like a co-op. The public option is a federal insurance program that would compete with private ones.  

One senator calls the co-op a compromise because it's not government-run like the public option, but instead, is membership-run and controlled.

That lawmaker also says it's appealing because it provides a non-profit competitor for the for-profit insurance companies. The government would provide up to $6 billion to get them started.  

Despite the signs, the White House did say Tuesday, that President Obama has not changed his prescription for reform, saying he still believes we need the public option.

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