The U.S. Government Accountability Office has started organizing a body that will help set up nonprofit, member-run health insurers that will serve the individual and small group markets.

The GAO today announced the appointment of 15 members to the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan advisory board.

The board was created by the Affordable Care Act, the legislative package that includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.

Congress create the CO-OP program as an alternative to setting up a government-run health insurance program open to all U.S. residents or relying entirely on the existing commercial health insurance market.

The advisory board is supposed to help the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services allocate the federal grants and loans that will be used to start the co-ops, officials say.

The CO-OP program is supposed to award the loans and grants by July 1, 2013.

Most of the advisory board appointees come from the health care provider and academic communities.

One member with ties to the insurance community is Rick Curtis, who has been president of the Institute for Health Policy Solutions, Washington, since 1992 and also has been director of the policy development and research department at the Health Insurance Association of America, Washington.

Another board member, Donna Novak, is an actuary and president of NovaRest Consulting Inc., Sahuarita, Ariz. Novak has been vice president of the financial reporting council and vice chair of the health practice council at the American Academy of Actuaries, Washington. She spent 3 years working at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Chicago, and 12 years working at commercial carriers.