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OR's Health CO-OP: The Shape of Things to Come?

April 2, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon has taken another step on the road to health-care reform, with or without the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act.

Board members of Oregon's Health CO-OP (Consumer Oriented and Operated Plan) will soon be traveling the state, asking people how they want their health insurance to work. As surprising as that may seem, comparing a traditional insurance company to the new CO-OP has been described as like comparing a bank to a credit union. The services are similar, but the CO-OP will be member-run, and the policies tailored to what members expect from their health coverage.

Oregon is among the first states to get this far with health-care reform, says board member Brian Rohter.

"Our goal is to transform the way health care is provided in our state, and that it spreads to the other states. That's what we're trying to accomplish, and we've assembled a good group of people to do that, and we have very high hopes."

According to Rohter, the Supreme Court decisions about the Affordable Care Act may affect some aspects of Oregon's Health CO-OP, although they are not expected to derail it. The law set aside federal money as start-up capital for co-ops to borrow, and the loan was approved last week for Oregon's Health CO-OP.

The new organization is on a tight timeline to start getting people insured who have otherwise had difficulty qualifying for, or paying for, health coverage, adds Rohter.

"We intend to begin enrolling members by the end of 2013, and we expect to start offering coverage on Jan. 1, 2014, which is the same time that Oregon's health-insurance exchange should become operational."

Oregon's Health CO-OP won't replace traditional insurance, he explains, but will be another option for small businesses, individuals and Medicaid recipients who lose their coverage. People insured through the CO-OP would be able to go to any health-care provider in the CareOregon network.

More information is available at www.ORHealthCO-OP.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR