Policyholder-members to run health insurance co-op

Becoming co-owner of a health insurance company is as easy as buying a policy at Colorado HealthOP, the state’s first nonprofit health insurance cooperative.

Created by Rocky Mountain Farmers Union using federal funds obtained through the Affordable Care Act, Colorado HealthOP and its members will provide coverage to individuals and employers “who want to improve their own health, their employees’ health and the health of their community,” the cooperative’s CEO said.

All of the health insurance plans offered by the cooperative will be marketed and sold using Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s online health insurance marketplace.

Consumers of HealthOP insurance will elect the board from its members to decide whether company profits should be used to reduce premiums or increase benefits, CEO Julia Hutchins said.

“That’s one of the big differences about who we are,” Hutchins said. “Over the next two years, our board will become a member board. The members will elect ... the board (from the membership).”

Even though policyholder-members elected to the board will control the company, insurance and health care professionals will be on staff to make sure HealthOP operates according to the law and industry standards, she said.

“You definitely need expertise within the organization,” Hutchins said. “At a staff level, we have (a combined) 335 years of Colorado health care experience.”

“What we really want is the board to be independent and to balance the interests of the membership and really make decisions on behalf of people,” she said.

HealthOP estimates it will need to enroll 25,000 members within three years to establish a stable risk pool.

To that end, the cooperative launched a statewide “Get Covered, Colorado” tour, which visits Grand Junction for a community question-and-answer session at 1 p.m. today at Main Street Bagels, 599 Main St.

“Nearly one in five Coloradans are uninsured, which leaves them exposed to significantly higher costs and potentially untreated health problems,” Hutchins said. “We are traveling the state to help more Coloradans get covered with the health insurance they need.”


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