Newly formed Kentucky Health Cooperative gets OK to offer plans

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 The new Kentucky Health Cooperative's health-insurance plans have received approval from the state Department of Insurance and will be available on Kentucky's insurance exchange market when it opens in October.

Simply, a cooperative is a health insurance company, but with a twist.

A health cooperative performs all the functions of an insurance company, but is a non-profit, member-run organization that is focused on the markets of a single state.

“This is a red-letter day for Kentuckians,” Janie Miller, CEO of the cooperative, said in a news release. “Although health-care cooperatives have offered quality care and lower overhead expenses to members since the 1930s, they’re the ‘newest kid’ on Kentucky’s health insurance block. Efforts are underway to help the public become familiar with the cooperative concept.”

The cooperative was formed with a mixture of private capital and federal loans.

Miller, a former secretary of the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said the cooperative is like member-owned and member-operated credit unions, rural electric cooperatives and food co-ops.

“Think agriculture cooperative extension offices, and consider the impact such organizations have made,” she said. “Doing so makes it easy to imagine the potential, similar value to the citizens of our Commonwealth offered by a health cooperative.”

Joe Smith, chair of the cooperative's board of directors, said “A gateway has been opened to individuals and small businesses seeking more affordable, consumer-friendly, quality-driven health insurance options.”

Details about the cooperative plans offered to individuals and businesses with 50 or fewer employees on the new state insurance exchange will be announced in the coming months.

For more information, visit http://www.mykyhc.org/faq/.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.