Coloradans soon will have a new health insurance option – and this one is “owned” by consumers.
Called the Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative, it’s based on models pioneered in other industries, such as farmers’ co-ops for crops or electricity, or member-owned businesses such as credit unions.
Lindy Wallace, president of the board working to form the new member-owned co-op, says the goal is to help individuals and small businesses get affordable and comprehensive health-care coverage – especially in rural areas.
“The intent is to provide an innovative way of securing health insurance in an empowering and community-based and fiscally responsible fashion.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently granted a $69 million implementation loan to the Colorado cooperative. Insurance plans will be offered for sale in fall 2013, with the policies going into effect in January 2014 through the new health-insurance exchange.
Wallace says the insurance co-op will be different from out-of-state insurance companies.
“Of the 450 insurance companies that participate in Colorado right now, very few are actually domiciled in Colorado. This keeps the money here, and it keeps the money at the community level.”
Under the co-op model, she says, any profits benefit consumers, not shareholders.
“It must either reduce the premiums that the consumer pays – it either increases the benefits they would receive, or it improves the quality of health care.”
The Colorado co-op model was developed with funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Health Foundation. The co-op is part of health-care reforms under the Affordable Care Act.