Eli Y. Adashi, Daniel P. O'Mahony & I. Glenn Cohen, And Then There Were Three: The Decimation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) CO-OPs, 35 J. Am. Bd. Fam. Med. 867 (2022).
Abstract: The Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-OPs), the subject of Section 1322 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), were to constitute “qualified nonprofit health insurance issuers.” Designed with an eye toward increasing competition with the extant commercial and nonprofit insurance sector, the CO-OPs were to enhance consumer choice as well as hold down prices on the state and federal exchanges. To achieve these ends, the consumer-governed state-licensed CO-OPs were to target the individual and small-group markets. At least one qualified CO-OP was to be established in each and every state. By the fall of 2013, however, coincident with the first open enrollment period of the ACA, only 23 CO-OPs were on tap. At the time of this writing, only three of these CO-OPs remain operational in the states of Maine, Montana, and Wisconsin. Viewed in hindsight, the thorough dissolution of the CO-OPs was the product of incremental financial privation effectuated by congressional opponents of the ACA. In this Commentary, we revisit the ontogeny of the CO-OP construct, review its partisan dismantling, and explore the potential resurrection thereof.