By Charlie Parke
CAN A COOPERATIVE NONPROFIT HEALTHPLAN WORK IN ARIZONA.
Originally posted at Activism Truth and reposted with permission of the author.
With the new federal healthcare plans beginning enrollment on October 1 2013 the public is weighing many new options. Coverage will soon be available to those with preexisting conditions, free or reduced plans will be available to those considered to be low income. Mostly this will give access to existing healthcare plans from for profit corporations, however Arizona will have a new option for a nonprofit cooperative called Meritus Health Partners.
In Arizona more than 1 million people are uninsured, about ¼ of these are minors. The new healthcare act seeks to bring coverage to those who haven’t been covered under the for profit system. To do this healthcare exchanges are being set up across the country. Some states set up a local exchange, but Arizona opted to use the federal exchange. Those who become uninsured may purchase healthcare directly from the exchange looking for a plan and price that fits their needs.
Many small businesses are expected to use the exchange for employee healthcare allowing them to act as a bigger group when negotiating a price. Individuals making less than 40,000 and families making less than 95,000 may be able to qualify for free or reduced cost coverage under the plan. Oct 1 2013 begins the enrollment phase, with coverage beginning Jan 1 2014.
With greater access to care comes increased competition for the best care and health care plans. Meritus Health comes from the desire for a public non-profit option in the new healthcare law. Regulated by the state’s department of insurance and directed by customers rather than stockholders. Set up as a cooperative with a board of directors elected by the customers using the plan. Profits made from the plan must be reinvested in providing quality care and/or reduced premiums.
To set up a nonprofit plan the federal government provided a 93 million dollar loan to Meritus to begin operations. The loan must be paid back in its entirety. Given the option to create a nonprofit plan many Tucson health executives with years of experience decided to put together a plan they feel will show policyholders a better option. A calculator to estimate if you qualify for a subsidized rate is available on their site. The plan is expected to operate in Maricopa and Pima county in 2014.
Gail Mokry Shoultes, a Phoenix activist stated “In the 1940’s my husband’s mother was the first woman board certified anesthesiologist in Arizona. At that time the hospitals were non profit. Then the several doctors in the Phoenix area got together and started Doctors Hospital, the first for profit hospital in Phoenix. My husband’s mother, Dr. Audrey Urry was horrified and was of the opinion that ALL hospitals were supposed to be non profit. I agree. I’m not sure the Hippocratic oath includes a profit clause. Therefore, non profit hospitals have already been successful. This isn’t really a new thing!!”
Pat Mayer a Phoenix resident said she wasn’t sure how different this plan would be from others “the major hospital chains and healthcare providers make some obscene profits, but check carefully into supposed “non-profit” operations. Often they spend (waste) a LOT of money and pay the executives obscene salaries, because, after all, they can’t show “profits.” She wondered if they would be required to publish their finances.
Vahid Thane Lee Eichenauer, a former candidate for Mayor of Phoenix pointed out that Blue Cross Blue Shield is has a long history as a “local, independent and not-for-profit health insurance company headquartered in Phoenix. Review the company fact sheet and learn more about our organization.”