The CO-OP Health Insurance Program

Twenty-four “consumer operated and oriented plans” will offer coverage through health insurance exchanges.

Starting in October 2013, people without access to coverage through an employer, Medicaid, or the Children's Health Insurance Program will be able to purchase health plans through health insurance exchanges for coverage taking effect in 2014. The 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) established a Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program to increase competition among plans and improve consumer choice. 

Under the ACA, the federal government awarded nearly $2 billion in federal loans to help create 24 new CO-OPs in 24 states. The CO-OP sponsors—consumer-run groups, membership organizations, and other nonprofit organizations—are now moving forward to offer health insurance coverage to members, but are still likely to face major challenges as they prepare for open enrollment in October.

This Health Policy Brief describes the CO-OP program and examines issues related to its implementation and likelihood of success, and was published online on February 28, 2013 in Health Affairs.