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Officials approve W.Va. nonprofit insurance co-op

By Jared Hunt, Business editor

State insurance officials have approved a nonprofit health insurer’s plan to begin selling policies in the state.

The West Virginia Health Cooperative Inc., has received approval from the state Offices of the Insurance Commissioner to begin enrollment in its new insurance plans beginning in November, the organization announced Tuesday. Benefits from the plans would go into effect Jan. 1, 2015.

The new state health co-op is an extension from an existing co-op doing business in Kentucky.

In December, Kentucky Health Cooperative Inc. received a federal loan to help fund an expansion into West Virginia. The expansion was contingent upon approval from West Virginia regulators.

Janie Miller, CEO of both the West Virginia and Kentucky cooperatives, said the approval made Tuesday a “red letter day.”

“In the coming months, residents of the Mountain State will benefit from West Virginia Health Cooperative’s addition as another option available to them for health insurance,” Miller said in a press release.

Joseph Smith, chairman of the nonprofit’s board of directors, said the approval would mean individuals and employers would have more options for affordable, consumer-friendly health insurance.

“That is a huge step forward toward improved health for the people of West Virginia,” Smith said.

Health care cooperatives were promoted under the federal Affordable Care Act. They are consumer-operated organizations and have been created in several states by consumer groups, doctors, and other organizations.

Executives said the West Virginia co-op will have a governing board that will “represent the interest of the citizens of West Virginia.” The organization is currently working to build a provider network and is gathering information about what residents would like from their health plan.

Miller said the cooperative would have more information about its plans later in the year.

“Stay tuned,” she said. “West Virginia Health Cooperative looks forward to announcing details of health insurance plans of particular benefit to individuals and families, and to businesses employing small groups of employees.”

The Kentucky cooperative did perform well over the last year during the open enrollment period for that state’s health insurance exchange. The nonprofit was able to secure business from 75 percent of the people who enrolled through the exchange.

Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said it would be interesting to see if the company could duplicate those results in the state over the next year.

“They’ve had some success in Kentucky,” Bryant said. “Whether they can do that in West Virginia remains to be seen.”

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836.


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