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December 16, 2009

Health Insurance Cooperatives: Lessons From the Great Depression

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Hospital of Central Connecticut, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, New Britain.

JAMA. 2009;302(23):2587-2588. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1856

Nearly a century after universal health insurance first arose as a social and political issue, the United States is mired once more in a volatile and high stakes debate about the direction of health care reform. While a Medicare-like public option remains very much in play, health care cooperatives have drawn increasing attention from lawmakers, the media, and the public. Most physicians are less familiar with cooperatives, their guiding principles, or their unique advantages or disadvantages. However, the concept of health care cooperatives is not new in US history. Reviewing what historical needs led to them, how they were constructed, and how reliance on them waned may sharpen the ability to assess the potential value of cooperatives in health care delivery and financing in today's health care debate.