Even though fiscal cliff negotiations on Capitol Hill cut billions in potential loans intended to launch dozens of state health insurance cooperatives, the new South Carolina cooperative remains solvent.
Consumers’ Choice, founded in North Charleston last year with an $87.8 million federal loan, plans to enroll its first members this fall. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act established a mechanism for states to set up health insurance co-ops, offering residents an alternative to traditional health insurance companies. The new nonprofit co-ops, like Consumers’ Choice, will be owned by policy holders. Future profits will be reinvested in the company or returned to cooperative members, explained Adrian Grimes, director of communications for Consumers’ Choice.
“Any savings we have have to go back into the plan to keep the price affordable,” Grimes said. “It takes everything that was wrong with health insurance and turns it on its head.”
But residents in states that did not secure a federal loan before the fiscal cliff deal was reached in early January will not have a health insurance co-op option. Grimes said because South Carolina’s co-op plans were approved last year, the federal start-up loan is still intact.
“We are one of the 24 that were funded,” she said.
But fledgling plans for cooperatives in other states like New Hampshire and North Carolina are now on hold, explained John Morrison, president of the National Alliance of State Health Cooperatives.
“The 24 states that have approved co-ops will have an opportunity to choose a health co-op among many other health insurance options. Unfortunately, the citizens who live in the other 26 states won’t, at least for now,” Morrison said.
“The fact that all of that was scuttled in a back-room, 11th-hour deal with no notice to stakeholders and no notice to even members of Congress was tragic, but it does not dissuade the 24 approved co-ops from moving forward full steam ahead,” he said.