Arizona the latest CO-OP to fail, will shut down at year's end

Arizona's consumer operated and oriented plan (CO-OP) has became the latest to fail, bringing to a total 13 CO-OPs that have either closed or started to wind down operations across the country.

Executives from Arizona's CO-OP announced Tuesday that they plan to shut down operations on Dec. 31 as they failed to come up with additional financial backing, according to an Associated Press report. Meritus Health Partners covered an estimated 59,000 Arizona residents who will need to find a new insurance plan by Dec. 15 in order to maintain coverage on Jan. 1, the report said.

The nonprofit was one of 23 CO-OPs created under the Affordable Care Act. To date, more than half have failed or will close by the end of the year.

Meritus said it was placed into receivership and is now under supervision by the Arizona State Department of Insurance. Meritus' CEO Tom Zumtobel said members should not worry about having their claims paid as the CO-OP has over $30 million on hand to meet expenses as it winds down business. The company said medical providers will also be paid.

That promise comes amid a report that the failure of a health CO-OP in New York is leaving providers owed millions of dollars for treating the plan's patients. Health Republic Insurance of New York, which insures more than 200,000 people, will shut down at the end of the month and has given no assurances to physicians, hospitals, and other clinicians they will be paid for care provided to beneficiaries, according to the AP.

"I'm aware of at least two physicians who have gotten checks from Health Republic, and those checks have bounced," Joseph Maldonado, M.D., president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, told the news organization. Two associations that represent hospitals in New York said member hospitals are owed at least $150 million not including much of the care provided in November, and the Associated Press said medical practices are likely owed millions more.

Many of the CO-OPs have struggled with financial difficulties, and Arizona's CO-OP got a poor start and struggled with enrollment numbers. 

To learn more:
- read the Meritus announcement
- here's the Associated Press report
- check out the report on the New York CO-OP