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Life Health > Health Insurance

Agent says carrier blocked him from joining CO-OP’s board

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A CO-OP in Iowa and a big insurer there are disagreeing over whether a broker who represents the insurer can serve on a CO-OP board.

The insurer, Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield, says it believes health insurance brokers should stay off the boards of any health insurance companies operating in the markets they serve.

“Consumers must be able to trust their broker and know they are receiving objective advice from them,” Traci McBee, a Wellmark representative, said in a statement about the matter.

The CO-OP, CoOportunity Health, says it believes Wellmark’s move to keep a Wellmark agent off the CoOportunity board amounted to tampering in the governance of a competing domestic company. CoOportunity said it has filed a complaint over the matter with the Iowa insurance commissioner.

The drafters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) created the nonprofit, member-owned Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program in an effort to increase the level of competition in the private health insurance market. PPACA provided startup financing for CO-OP organizers.

Under PPACA, health insurers cannot have any role in the financing or governance of a CO-OP.

CoOportunity, one of the 23 carriers created by the program, now provides coverage for about 100,000 people in Iowa and Nebraska. 

Jesse Patton, a Des Moines broker who has been active in the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and the National Association of Health Underwriters, was elected to the CoOportunity board for 2015 in a recent round of board elections. He resigned from the board after he learned that he would not be able to serve as a Wellmark agent if he was on the CoOportunity board, CoOportunity said.

Patton could not immediately be reached for comment.


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