Health Republic Holds Board Elections, Holds Annual Meeting

Arin Carmack and Kim Lamb were elected to its board of directors.

Health Republic Insurance, a year-old health insurer that calls itself a “true non-profit,” held its inaugural annual meeting and board of directors’ election under a transparent tent in downtown Portland as a symbol of its member-governed structure. A crowd of 50 employees, members and board candidates posed for photos with therapy llamas, received chair massages and sampled Kombucha.

 “It’s been a tough year, an amazing year,” said Dawn Bonder, president and CEO. “Some people said we wouldn’t make it this long.  We’ve been saying ‘we will be member-governed,’ and now we are member governed.”

Arin Carmack, a member, who does risk management for small businesses and helps them navigate the changes in healthcare, joined the board along with non-member Kim Lamb who has 18 years’ experience with startups and nonprofits. As one of 23 chartered non-profit co-ops in the nation, Health Republic is required to have members on its board, and, by 2016, they must comprise the majority.

Health Republic has about 8,000 members “evenly spread” throughout Oregon, and hopes to have 10,000 by year’s end, Bonder said.  A partnership with the statewide Providence network connects members to providers and hospitals.  

Last year Health Republic was a typical startup with “one employee, a desk, a phone, no license, no plans, no members,” Bonder said. But Oregonians wanted “a new kind of insurance carrier” to innovate and increase competition. Health Republic offers plans that include massage, acupuncture and naturopathic treatment, for example.

“We might really be able to do something that’s not drugs and surgery,” said Dr. Lauretta Young, chief medical officer. Under its non-profit structure, Health Republic must reinvest all profits by providing better care and lowering premiums.  

Most members are individuals or businesses with fewer than 50 employers – who sometimes struggle to pay for their least expensive plans, which start at $75 a month. 

Next year, Health Republic hopes to double its membership with no major change in strategy and hold town hall meetings to gather feedback from its members.

Jan can be reached at [email protected] 

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