Whether you know it as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, just the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or plain-old Obamacare, by this time next year having health insurance will be a requirement. So what do you do? Well fortunately when this whole ACA thing came about, a provision was written in that allowed for the formation of nonprofit health insurance companies, started on loans from the federal government. These consumer oriented and operated plans (CO-OPs) were designed to be an affordable alternative to big-business health insurance, and were one of a few solutions put into place to make sure that you, and everyone you know, can find and afford health insurance.
Now funding for this provision was pretty much written out when we nearly fell off of the fiscal cliff at the end of last year, but 24 states managed to get their funding applications approved, and Nevada made the cut. That funding has led to the formation of the Nevada Health CO-OP, the first and only nonprofit insurance alternative that Nevada will see next year, both on and off the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.
Headquartered in the heart of Las Vegas, the Nevada Health CO-OP will become a statewide entity by 2015, beginning by serving Southern Nevada and the Washoe County areas. I’m told that rates and plan information will be available this summer.
This looks promising. First, it’s a nonprofit, meaning that all of the money that the company makes will go right back into member benefits. Without the burden of maximizing profit margins, a nonprofit insurance company can both focus on quality care and affordability.
Here’s the other deal. It’s a CO-OP meaning it’s run by its members. I like the idea that the insurance company reports to me, not shareholders. If members see areas for improvement, they can make it happen.
I’m also happy that the CO-OP is being formed by leadership from the Culinary Health Fund. The Culinary Health Fund has a reputation for providing some of the best health care coverage in Nevada for its members and their immediate families. Note that word ‘immediate’; you and your kids may be able to get the culinary health insurance, but your Uncle Johnny cannot. But with the Culinary Health Fund’s guidance, the Nevada Health CO-OP’s plan is said to be shaping as similar to the culinary plan as possible, giving Uncle Johnny an affordable, comparable option.
Though the Nevada Health CO-OP is the first insurance company of its kind in Nevada, co-ops are nothing new to the state. In Lincoln County, farmers and ranchers came together to form Nevada Farm Fresh, a local cooperative that allows its members to compete with high volume large farming operations. Other organizations throughout Nevada have done similar things, pooling their resources and efforts to form something bigger, in a range of industries from food to utilities. While insurance may be a new area for this time-tested idea, the same ability to compete with national brands, look out for the welfare of members and keep Nevada’s resources in Nevada are all things that co-ops, including the Nevada Health CO-OP, are positioned to do.
So what happens next? According to the ACA, in 2014 everyone is going to need insurance. Open enrollment doesn’t start until October, but the team at the Nevada Health CO-OP wants to help Nevadans get started today. Interested parties can reserve a spot in the Nevada Health CO-OP via the nonprofit’s website or by giving them a call (702.823.COOP).
So here we are, months before the ACA is really going to make its full impact on your health insurance, and there are already affordable options forming as we speak. Whether you have your insurance situation figured out or have no clue what the next step is, you should check out the website or give the Nevada Health CO-OP and see if their options work for you.
Justin is the publisher The Nevada View, which has earned the recognition in the Washington Post’s “Best State-Based Political Blogs,” as well as being awarded the “Most Valuable Blogger Award” by the local CBS affiliate in 2011. Follow him on Twitter @McAffee