DES MOINES-Credit unions in Iowa and Nebraska are partnering with CoOportunity Health to offer affordable, health insurance options for individuals, families and businesses starting this fall.

The move comes with the Jan. 1, 2014, deadline for the Affordable Care Act fast approaching and at a time credit unions may be looking to serve the expanded health insurance marketplace. Earlier this year, the Birmingham, Ala.-based Health Partners America and EPL, a technology CUSO owned by 12 CUs across the country, introduced the Credit Union Exchange Blueprint, a national private health insurance exchange open to all CU employees and members that can be offered through credit unions (Credit Union Journal, March 18). The exchange offers CUs another avenue to drive revenue, and was featured last month at Credit Union Journal's Grow Show in Orlando (see related story, page 12).

The partnership among the Iowa CU League, Nebraska CU League and CoOportunity Health has been in development for more than two years and is believed to be the first of its kind among cooperatives nationwide. It will give participating Iowa and Nebraska credit unions the tools to provide member outreach and education on healthcare reform while making CoOportunity Health's insurance options available to individuals, families and businesses.


New Cooperative

CoOportunity Health is a new health insurance co-op that was created as part of the Affordable Care Act to create new competition and new choice. It is one of 24 co-ops approved nationwide, but the only one to serve Iowa and Nebraska.

Iowa and Nebraska credit unions will be the exclusive financial institution distribution channel for CoOportunity Health when open enrollment for health insurance begins Oct. 1, 2013. Between Iowa and Nebraska, there are more than 180 credit unions serving approximately 1.45 million members.

"Through our partnership with CoOportunity Health, our members and those who seek out membership will have access to vital information and new health insurance options at a time of great confusion and need," said Patrick Jury, president of the Iowa League.

Jury said beyond offering credit union members an affordable, member-focused health insurance alternative, another benefit of the partnership is that credit union Health Savings Accounts can be established when a prospect enrolls in a qualified high-deductible health insurance plan through CoOportunity Health.

Group Benefits, Ltd. will serve as the preferred broker for the credit union/CoOportunity Health partnership in both states.

Iowa and Nebraska credit unions participating in the program will be announced in the coming months. CoOportunity Health will begin enrollment in October 2013 with effective dates of Jan. 1, 2014.

"We think the partnership between credit unions and health insurance co-ops is a natural fit for cooperatives," said Murray Williams COO at the Iowa League. "Credit unions and leagues will receive a modest referral fee to help offset the administrative costs associated with the partnership. The goal of this cooperative partnership is simply to cover our costs and provide a valuable new service to our members."


Evaluating Options

Asked if he thinks some Iowa and Nebraska credit unions may choose to drop their employee healthcare coverage, pay the penalty under the Affordable Care Act, and then send staff to CoOportunity Health for coverage, Murray is uncertain.

"Every business is evaluating their options in this new healthcare landscape. As part of our partnership with CoOportunity Health and Group Benefits, our leagues have made a concerted effort to educate our credit unions so they have the tools they need to make informed decisions."

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