They’re against co-ops, too

THEY’RE AGAINST CO-OPS, TOO…. The NYT reports today, “The White House has indicated that it could accept a nonprofit health care cooperative as an alternative to a new government insurance plan, originally favored by President Obama. But the co-op idea is so ill defined that no one knows exactly what it would look like or how effectively it would compete with commercial insurers.”

It’s going to be tough to rally support for an idea when it’s not altogether clear what it is, or how it would work. Ezra Klein had an item noting the differences between a co-op and a public option, and concluded, “As the situation stands, there’s no existing model for co-ops to follow and no policy specifics on Conrad’s idea, so it’s impossible to say whether, or how, they will work. I could imagine very good co-ops or totally useless ones.”

But let’s focus, for now, on the political side of this. After all, the very idea of a nonprofit cooperative was itself a political invention — adding palatable competition to the system without creating a public option. Indeed, for months, Republicans said a public option would mark the fall of civilization, but a co-op alternative is entirely palatable.

But in light of signals that a genuine public option is in trouble, the Republican Party that found co-ops reasonable has decided to change course. Now, they’re against co-ops, too.

The very basic logic of the public option is this: Most Democrats support a strong public option, most Republicans oppose Democratic health care reform period, so perhaps Democrats can win over a few Republicans if they keep government out of the insurance industry and create a system of privately-held health-care co-operatives instead. Simple right?

Not if the RNC has anything to say about it.

They’re out today with a new release, attacking the co-op idea…. As the RNC makes clear, in their eyes, “Public option by any other name is still government-run health care.”

Last night, right-wing talk-show host Mark Steyn said on Fox News that co-ops aren’t different enough from the public option, adding, “[T]he whole system is in fact a kind of death panel.”

The death of American political discourse notwithstanding, let’s be clear about the larger debate: no matter what Democrats propose, Republicans are going to reject it, even if they’ve already signaled support for the same idea. Consistency and honesty are irrelevant — the goal is to defeat health care reform, no matter what’s in the bill.

As John Cole explained last night, “At some point, these folks are going to learn that no matter what happens, the Republicans are not going to vote for anything. As soon as they kill off the public option, they will pick off co-ops. Think I’m kidding? They managed to convince people that voluntarily talks with your doctor about a living will was a death panel killing grandma.”

John Harwood noted on MSNBC the other day, “I gotta tell you what a White House official told me today: ‘Our problem right now is, if we tell some of the Republican opponents in the Senate, ‘You can have everything you want in the bill,’ they still won’t vote for it.'”

Yep. Republicans don’t support health care reform. Weakening the bill and scuttling good ideas to garner their support doesn’t make sense, since they fully intend to vote against literally any bill. Yesterday, Chuck Grassley said he’s likely to vote against his own compromise package.

Shouldn’t this tell Democrats something about the utility of negotiations, and the futility of finding a bipartisan compromise?