A health insurance company run by its members currently has some of the lowest rates around. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
We have food co-ops and building co-ops, and now, New York State has its first and only health insurance co-op: Health Republic.
"Being a co-op is a member-centric model, so we have the member's interest solely at heart," says Debra Friedman, president and CEO of Health Republic.
The nonprofit has some of the lowest rates offered on the state's new health exchange marketplace, New York State of Health, because all of its narrow profit margin is directly reinvested into its members' care and benefits. Those members will also make up a majority of the co-op's Board of Trustees.
"They're heavily involved in the operating structure of the company," Friedman says.
The model was encouraged by the Affordable Care Act, which provides funding for co-ops. The objective was to create competition in the market place, driving down rates.
It was a controversial use of taxpayer dollars because the co-ops compete against well-established, for-profit companies, putting them at a major disadvantage, with fewer options for recovery if they get into financial trouble.
So far, though, Friedman says they're right on track.
"We're ahead of our projects on call volume and ahead of our projections on enrollment," Friedman says.
Health Republic is offered in 32 New York counties, tapping into Magnacare's network of 70,000 providers.
Its plans vary from traditional co-pays and deductibles to a more innovative model that requires a hands-on approach to your health care but costs less.
"In the innovative product, that's where we're trying to foster that close relationship between the patient and their doctor," says Dr. Edward Anselm, the medical director and CMO of Health Republic. "That's where we've lowered the barriers to make it easier to see your doctor."
It means no co-pays for primary care visits. Also, a majority of generic prescription drugs are completely covered, and members can speak to a doctor on the phone at any time.
"We have a service that links our members to a web-based or telephone-based interaction with an emergency medical physician," Anselm says.
Health Republic offers plans for individuals and small businesses.