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Health Insurance co-op reviewing proposals

The St. Croix Economic Development Corp. reports that the interim board of a fledgling western Wisconsin health insurance cooperative sent out requests for proposals from major insurance companies in early July.

Cooperative Health Choices of Western Wisconsin asked insurance companies to develop pricing on health insurance policies by Aug. 15 so that prospective members of the cooperative can decide whether to accept the terms and conditions of the coverage, St. Croix EDC said in its bi-monthly publication, the St. Croix Chronicle.

The cooperative is on track to begin providing health insurance benefits to its members on Oct. 1, according to the report.

It says the health insurance cooperative has almost 300 prospective member employers. The employers have more than 3,000 employees, of which 2,300 have indicated they are interested in receiving the co-op's insurance coverge.

A total of 4,700 people could be covered by the co-op's insurance, including employees' dependents, the St. Croix Chronicle reported.

The health insurance cooperative was formed under a new state law in late 2008. It will serve a 17-county region of western, west central and northwestern Wisconsin.

Under the cooperative model, members will band together to purchase health insurance as a group. The organizers believe that shopping for insurance for a larger number of people will give them greater bargaining power and reduce premiums.

Members of the co-op also will have a voice in their health insurance decisions and may be elected to serve on the board of directors.

Cooperative Health Choices expects to serve large and small businesses, partnerships, the self-employed, trade and labor organizations and local units of government.

The co-op is authorized to operate in Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Chippewa, Clark, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Price, Rusk, St. Croix, Sawyer and Washburn counties.

Health insurance cooperatives have taken a national stage in discussions about health care and health insurance reform, St. Croix EDC notes.