Community Agriculture Alliance: Health insurance cooperative launches in Colorado

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— On Oct. 1, Colorado health insurance took a new, consumer-focused direction with the launch of Colorado HealthOP, the Colorado health insurance cooperative. HealthOP offers affordable health insurance to individuals and small business on a nonprofit, cooperative basis. Independent analysis has shown that the rates are competitive.

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"Because Colorado HealthOP reports to members, not shareholders, investing in members’ long-term health — not short-term profits — is a priority. By investing in preventive care and giving members more choices, we will not only improve members’ health, but also hope to save them more money now and in the future," Colorado HealthOP Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jack Westfall said in a news release.

HealthOP offers five programs designed to give consumers more choice in their health care, help them stay healthier and reduce their health care spending:

1. Under most HealthOP plans, when members take certain wellness steps, they will pay less when they visit the doctor.

2. Members can choose a plan with a limited network that costs less. In addition, HealthOP has selected medical partners who believe in the co-op’s mission, so when members go to these doctors, they often pay less.

3. HealthOP covers four oral health visits between ages 6 months and 4 years.

4. HealthOP covers 100 percent of the costs associated with home monitoring for members with high blood pressure.

5. To help members compare costs prior to seeking medical care, HealthOP provides pricing and quality ratings for providers of surgery, medical tests and other common procedures.

"Colorado HealthOP is not just a health insurance company. We want to support our members’ health, nutrition and fitness, and help them be more informed consumers of healthcare services," Westfall said in the release.

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union executives respond:

"This is a proud day for HealthOP President Lindy Wallace and the team she leads and a proud day for us at (Farmers Union). Our members have been asking for new approaches to rural health insurance. When we understood the opportunity offered by the Affordable Care Act, we were ready to respond. Now our efforts, along with those of (Wallace) and her colleagues, have opened a new door for health care for rural Americans," Farmers Union Executive Director Ben Rainbolt said on the launch date.

"Health insurance co-ops can address many of the problems with traditional health care in the rural United States," Farmers Union Cooperative Development Center Director Bill Stevenson said.

Stevenson will discuss HealthOP at the Northwest Colorado Farmers Union annual meeting at 5 p.m. Oct. 30 at Wolf Mountain Pizza, 175 W. Jefferson Ave., Hayden.

Mick McCallister is the director of communications for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

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