CO-OPs a Health Plan Alternative

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , July 19, 2011

Provider groups and associations have recently expressed interest in CO-OPs. He identifies accountable care organizations, integrated delivery systems and chambers of commerce as likely candidates to form CO-OPs. In his brief he notes that hospital and physician groups appear best situated for CO-OPs because through an integrated care model “they hold the key to creating a competitive product.”

HHS, which hopes to have one CO-OP per state, will help kick-start the process with $3.8 billion in loans to start-up and capitalize the new health plans.

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According to the proposed rules, two types of interest-bearing loans will be available. The start-up loan will fund initial administrative costs; the solvency loan will fund the ongoing insurance reserves necessary for a CO-OP to offer health insurance coverage. Startup loans must be repaid within five years and solvency loans must be repaid in 15 years. Loans will be awarded by July 1, 2013,

White says CO-OPs could change the health insurance paradigm. “They’ll be competing against established health plans but they’ll have a great story to tell: we’re member-run and we put our profits back into the business to lower member premiums, and to improve member benefits and care.”

He says the biggest hurdle for CO-OPS will be risk selection. He adds that despite the billions of dollars the government is investing in CO-OPS health plans will still have an advantage within the exchange because they already have networks in place and understand the market.

Public comment on the proposed rules will be accepted over the next 60 days.


Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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