Health care reform and cooperatives

Home Health Care
Home Health Care

The Republican Right rarely bestows gifts. They were invited to the table but, resisting any proposal so far, it looks like the Obama administration may just blaze a new trail. Let’s hope so. Their staunch refusal of the public option to reform health care gave way to consideration of cooperatives as a potential solution.

Research on the Economic Impact of Cooperatives, a publication of the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Cooperatives, revealed that in the United States they collectively own over $3 trillion assets, generate over $500 billion in revenue and $25 billion in wages. See more at Running the Numbers on Cooperatives. The United States Census Bureau has not kept records on cooperatives as a business sector so UWCC’s Phase I research is the first to document how much this vibrant sector contributes to our economy.

Cooperatives welcome the scrutiny because it is a success story that is not told often enough. Take home health care, for example. The work is not easy or glamorous. There’s a reason for the 40 to 60 percent annual turnover rate. The seed money that Cooperative Care, in Waushara County, Wisconsin received in 1999 begat the worker-owned cooperative. Before the co-op, home health care providers were individuals paid by the county through a fiscal intermediary. They received low pay, no benefits and were considered domestic help. As cooperative members, they own, operate and govern the business. Now they receive higher pay, time and-a-half for holidays, ten paid vacation days, workers compensation, travel reimbursement and health insurance. Some members have been able to buy homes. Turnover is nil.

Cooperatives offer a more robust business model than some that we recently revered that are now rotting  and rusting. For more information on cooperatives visit National Cooperative Business Association, National Association of Housing Cooperatives and Brainstorming Ideas.

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