CO-OPs adjust business plans after exchange problems

Few insurers have as much to gain--or lose--by the success of the health insurance exchanges than consumer oriented and operated plans (CO-OPs). As the newcomers to the health insurance industry, they need the online marketplaces to recruit members and build their business.

But technical glitches miring the exchanges, minimal enrollment numbers from federal officials and a lack of revenue thus far all are leaving CO-OPs feeling uncertain about their future, reported Kaiser Health News.

"It's slowly getting better. Some people have gotten to the enrollment stage before the site freezes," Maryland-based Evergreen Health Cooperative CEO Peter Beilenson told KHN. "Once enrollments start occurring, we still don't expect to get notification of that from the exchange until December, which makes planning for deployment of resources challenging."

Other CO-OPs selling plans on the federal exchange also have concerns. "We continue to have significant challenges," said Kathleen Oestreich, CEO of Arizona-based Meritus Health Partners. "Some people are expressing some frustration but not across the board by any means. Many people understand it is a big system, and will take a bit to make it work."

Meanwhile, CO-OPs must pay their staff and office leases, hire providers, enroll members, and strive toward their goal of bringing a completely different paradigm to the insurance industry, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.  

That's why some CO-OPs are adjusting their business plans to help convince consumers to sign up for their coverage.

Evergreen, for example, is working to find consumers offline, focusing on small business accounts that can provide multiple subscribers in one deal. In fact, ads Evergreen mailed to thousands of employers resulted in more than 100 responses in only one day, Beilenson said.

And Meritus is hoping brokers and face-to-face meetings with consumers will help it enroll more members. "Brokers are showing great interest," Oestreich said.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article