When does an insurance coop equal a public insurance option? Let’s see, what if we — uh — create a public insurance option and — oh, goodness — let the federal government run it but — by golly, this is hard — make it so that the policyholders are entitled to any surplus it generates — after, of course, its bills are paid and a prudent reserve is set aside to pay future claims.

When a surplus is declared, policyholders could receive it in the form of a — a what?

Man, this is tough.

Wait, I’ve got it!

Let’s call it a membership dividend check.

But here’s the toughest part, what could we possibly name this thing that could ever provide political cover for the many Democrats who’ve pledged never to support health care reform without a public option and the Democrats — all three of them, but unfortunately they’re all in the Senate — who’ve said they’ll never support a public option, only coops?

How about naming it the U.S. Insurance Cooperative Option? USICO, for short.

Hey, it’s public, it’s a coop, and if Sens. Max Baucus, Kent Conrad and Ben Nelson insist, it could even have state-level membership boards with the authority to create — if their state’s members approve — new benefits above and beyond the basic package mandated as part of the public option … I mean, as part of our USICO.

Wow, that took almost five minutes.