Representatives of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union congratulated the founding board of the Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative on news that they have been awarded startup funds by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “This is a proud day for CO-OP Chair Lindy Wallace and the team she leads,” said RMFU Executive Director Ben Rainbolt, “and it’s a proud day for us. We have been leaders in the development of cooperative businesses since our beginnings a century ago. When we understood the opportunity offered by the Affordable Care Act, we were ready to respond. Now our efforts, along with those of Lindy and her colleagues, have opened a new door for health care for rural Americans.”
The RMFU Foundation incorporated the Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative, a nonprofit health insurer, after conducting a feasibility study with grant funding from the Colorado Health Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The study committee, working through the RMFU Foundation’s Cooperative Development Center, received assistance from many healthcare experts.
The next step for the new co-op was to seek federal loan money to provide the necessary capital for an insurer. “The Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative is modeled after the successful rural electric program which provided low-interest loans to assist new rural utility systems many decades ago,” said RMFU’s Director of Co-op Development, Bill Stevenson, “so we were confident that the co-op would get funding.” In April, the Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative’s loan application was submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for review. Many individuals and organizations supported the application.
Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans, or CO-OPs, are designed to lower healthcare costs by eliminating insurance profits and requiring that the consumers of health care control the insurance company. Purchasers of the new nonprofit’s health insurance will be members of the cooperative and they will elect the board of directors. The new co-op’s insurance plans will be sold through the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange as well as through insurance brokers, beginning in late 2013.
“Health insurance co-ops can address many of the problems with traditional health care in the rural United States,” Stevenson said. “The Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative will serve the entire state, but it will focus on offering affordable health care to our rural communities.”
Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative Contact:
Lindy Wallace, President (303.283.3532) or visit CoHInC.org.