Health-insurance co-op set to start in 2013

If you don’t have health insurance, or you want to buy less expensive health-insurance coverage in the future, you’re sure to be affected by my first piece of news.

A new, nonprofit health insurance co-op is slated to start working in Colorado in 2013. Customers are expected to be able to buy the new insurance from the co-op in 2013; their health-insurance plans will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

The co-op – sponsored by the Denver-based nonprofit Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Foundation – recently received a loan for $69 million to operate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Why is this new health-insurance co-op starting now?

Every person must have health insurance by 2014, under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010. The new federal law also calls for every state to put together at least one nonprofit, co-op health-insurance provider.

Lindy Wallace, who formerly worked with the Boulder County Public Health program, is a volunteer at the new co-op, which is based in Denver.

“We’re very optimistic about this. It is consumer-owned and consumer-driven, so it’s not a company that makes piles of money,” Wallace said.

The co-op must become self-sufficient by paying back the loan within 15 years, Wallace said.

Program organizers hope to have 14,000 customers in 2013, Wallace said. An estimated 500,000 people in Colorado are uninsured.

The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union has 22 chapters across the state. Officers of the Adams/St. Vrain chapter live in Boulder, Lafayette and Longmont.

Potential customers will be able to ask questions at community gatherings hosted by those chapters in the future, Wallace said.

BCH accreditation

Boulder Community Hospital has earned accreditation from a national breast center program recognizing the quality of services it offers to breast cancer patients. While the Boulder Valley’s three other hospitals also offer breast cancer treatment, Boulder Community Hospital is the only accredited facility located north of Denver, according to a press statement.

More information about BCH breast services is available at www.bch.org/breastcancer.

Was that a sneeze?

Next – what your mother told you about remembering to cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough is magnified a hundred times when you’re an athlete in the Olympic Village.

So said Neal Henderson, sports science director at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, who coached Boulder cyclist Taylor Phinney and other local athletes at the London Olympic Games that just wrapped up on Sunday, Aug. 12.

Athletes at the Olympics carry alcohol-based hand cleaner 24/7, wiping down railings and other commonly touched items as often as they can, Henderson said.

“The radar on a high-performance athlete goes up. When they hear someone sneeze, they get out the hand cleaner,” Henderson said.

Gift cards for wellness

You can get merchant gift cards for participating in wellness assessments and coaching if you participate in a program offered by insurance provider United Healthcare of Colorado Inc. based in Denver.

Louisville customer intelligence company Market Force Information Inc. employees recently became involved with one of United Healthcare’s wellness programs.

About three-fourths of the company’s employees participated in the plan, or 27 out of 35 employees. They received gift cards for completing health assessments, for calling in to a telephone wellness coaching line and for going online to take advantage of other health coaching activities, according to United Healthcare statistics.

Of the employees who participated, 94 percent whose weight fell in the “at-risk” category said they planned to lose weight.

Of the smokers at the company, 100 percent said they planned to change their behavior and quit smoking. Maybe more surprising – workers in the 18- to 24-year-old category were the most likely to have total cholesterol levels that put them at risk.

And just 9.5 percent of the company’s employees were at risk for developing diabetes, while nearly 26 percent of working adults in the United States are now believed to be at risk.

United Healthcare covers about 600,000 workers across Colorado. It is one of the companies of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH).

Beth Potter can be reached at 303-630-1944 or via email at bpotter@bcbr.com.

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