Health care co-ops such as Minnesota's Health Partners could be part of health reform legislation working its way through Congress.
If lawmakers scrap the idea of a government-run health insurance plan, some members of Congress are pushing for another model -- member-owned nonprofit health cooperatives.
Bloomington-based HealthPartners is one of two HMO's being held up as a model. The other is Group Health, based in Seattle.
HealthPartners CEO Mary Brainerd says co-ops aren't the "magic answer" to rising health care costs, but they could be part of the solution.
"For profit health care companies need to provide returns to investors and their stockholders," Brainerd told MPR News. "So their need to generate profits are significantly greater than a not-for-profit organization that's designed for a different purpose."
Rather than being accountable to shareholders, the HealthPartners board of directors is elected by the people it insures. But only 10 percent of its contract holders actually exercise their right to vote.
North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad is championing the co-op plan.