Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Nonprofit Insurer Gets Federal Loans
A national membership group of independent workers was awarded federal loans, setting the stage for a new nonprofit insurer.
The Register-Guard reported today that the Freelancers Union was awarded $59.48 million in low and no-interest federal loans on Tuesday. This money was used to create a nonprofit, consumer-run health insurance plan in Oregon. The Union was also awarded loans to set up similar plans in New York and New Jersey, and other organizations were given the green light to set up programs in Montana, Iowa, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.
The new insurer will be run as a Consumer Oriented and Operated Plan (CO-OP), a new plan for individuals and small businesses that was created by the Affordable Care Act of 2010. According to Freelancers Union founder and executive director Sara Horowitz, the CO-OP will be open to all Oregonians, not just members of the Union (though members will get access first). Customers will be able to join the plan in October 2013, with benefits becoming available in January 2014. Horowitz told The Register that she anticipates the program will insure 35,000 workers after five years.
The CO-OP plans to give its members insurance through a partnership with Providence Health & Services, a Catholic-sponsored health care system in Oregon that also operates in Alaska, California, Montana, and Washington. The cost of the plan is yet to be determined.
This is not the first time the Freelancers Union has dabbled in nonprofit healthcare. In 2009, the organization founded the Freelancers Insurance Co., which provides health insurance to over 23,000 New York Union members and their families. The insurance costs about a third less than the average plans on the individual market.
You can read more about this story in The Register-Guard.