Freelancers Co-Op of Oregon begins search for top-level management

Interim CEO Rick Koven says the New York-based Freelancers Union set up shop in Oregon because it's a 'creative hub' with many independent workers

May 30, 2012 -- The first of two Oregon nonprofits to receive startup funding from the federal government announced last week that it is seeking a director of finance and a director of operations. It has also hired Rick Koven as its interim CEO

The Freelancers Co-Op of Oregon, started with assistance from the New York City-based Freelancers Union, received $59 million from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to start a cooperatively-owned and operated health plan in the state. So far, Oregon is the only state to receive funding for two co-op health plans.

Koven lives in Portland and has 30 years of experience in management in the insurance industry. He also helped the Freelancers Insurance Company – which has been providing insurance to independent workers in New York State since 2008 -- get started. He's been involved with the Freelancers Co-Op of Oregon since its inception and helped the organization procure federal startup funds. The Freelancers Union
has also received funds to start co-ops in New York and New Jersey.

Koven said Oregon looked like a fit for the Freelancers Union because the state boasts a large number of independent workers, and the Portland area is becoming a “cultural hub” for creatives. While the
health plan will be available to everyone once it opens for enrollment in 2014, its intention is to focus on freelance, self-employed or independent workers. Koven said there may be as many as 500,000
independent workers in the state, many of whom do not have insurance.

“Oregon is a very progressive place. This is a very progressive organization,” Koven said. The Freelancers Co-Op has formed a partnership with Providence Health Plans, which will provide the
baseline provider network as well as claims, administrative and medical management services.

“The way that we hope to be different is that we're going to be cooperative,” Koven said. “We expect to get our members engaged in their health care.

Consumer-owned and operated co-ops were created through a provision in the Affordable Care Act that was added after the public option was dropped from the bill. The co-op provision set aside $6 billion in federal grants and low-interest loans to get the co-ops up and running. Awards are still being announced on a rolling basis. The Freelancers Co-op of Oregon was part of the first group of award recipients announced in April.

Oregon's Health Co-Op, which formed last December with sponsorship from Oregon Health Plan provider, received $57 million in federal startup funds in March. Officials involved with Oregon's Health Co-op have said its plan will also be available to all enrollees, specifically seeking to enroll what is sometimes called the “churn” population – people who are sometimes eligible for the Oregon Health Plan, but whose fluctuating income will disqualify them for it, while not quite allowing them to afford health insurance.

News source: