Letter to the Editor: What happend to CoOpportunity Health

To the Editor:
On Christmas Eve 2014, CoOpportunity Health, an Iowa-based health insurance provider, was taken over by the state of Iowa causing confusion and many questions amidst insurance providers and customers. The world of health insurance is a complicated one, but looking at CoOpportunity’s situation “differently” helps to clarify what’s really happened.
In September of 2011, the government passed a rule that all hamburger joints would have to comply with certain regulations to meet the dietary needs of their customers. Some of these dietary needs were quite expensive.  However, the costs of the dietary needs would not be passed on to the individuals that required the more expensive burger, but rather would be spread out over every customer by increased costs on all burgers. With that in mind, the government also created tax credits based on income guidelines, knowing that lower and middle class Americans wouldn’t be able to afford a burger under the new guidelines.
The government encouraged and made loans available for new, start-up hamburger joints to create more competition in markets that were dominated by one hamburger joint. In the state of Iowa, some smart, experienced, and thoughtful people got together and thought that our state could benefit from a new and different kind of hamburger joint.  
With that in mind and two years of planning, a non-profit hamburger joint was born.  By all accounts, this hamburger joint was a high quality one, similar to the “big” burger joint. They had locations in all 99 counties, and their customer service was outstanding. The new hamburger joint was poised to be a competitor and another option for Iowan’s.   
While neither burger joint could discriminate on who they sold new burgers to, they had to charge a higher price due to the dietary requirements. The “big” burger joint was allowed by the government to continue to sell reduced, regular-priced burgers to people that were previous customers and didn’t have expensive dietary needs. “If you like your burger, you can keep it.” It was plain to see early on that some of the customer’s dietary needs were very expensive for both burger establishments, but the non-profit burger joint was adversely affected because they didn’t have access to the healthy clients with no special dietary requirements.  
Despite this, the non-profit burger joint plowed ahead.  With outstanding customer service and by electing to accept tax credits from their customers, they felt like they would be viable. With an original goal of 15,000 customers, the non-profit burger joint grew quickly. With 100,000+ members, it was clear there was a need in the Iowa market.
Unfortunately, because of a combination of many events, including red tape and government inefficiency in timely payments for customers’ tax credits and other safety nets, the non-profit burger joint had to be taken over by the state of Iowa on Christmas Eve 2014. It was a sad day for Iowa customers and chain operators.
The “big” burger joint is not to blame for this. They have a quality product and business model. The problem for Iowan’s is that the “big” burger joint doesn’t accept tax credits—and they have quality reasons for this.  Fortunately, there is still one other quality option for Iowan’s that can benefit from tax credits.  
While this topic is loaded with political opinions, the fact is that Iowa is dead last in terms of our people taking advantage of federal tax credits to pay for their burgers. Whether you believe in the tax credits or not, millions of other people in other states are taking advantage of the tax credits, and we, the Iowa tax payers, are paying for them. The reality is that the tax credits make a significant impact on our local economy and the lives of Iowans. Let’s hope the non-profit burger joint can restructure and be an option in the near future.
One of the biggest concerns for CoOpportunity customers today is, “Do I still have insurance?”  The answer is yes. As stated in the Des Moines register, “CoOportunity has stopped taking applications from new customers, but those who bought CoOportunity policies before Dec. 16 can continue using their policies for health care. However… people who have CoOportunity policies should consider switching to another carrier.” Considering this suggestion, any concerned customer with CoOpportunity insurance is encouraged to contact their local insurance agent for guidance.

Brian Huinker

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