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April 23, 2009


Co-Op Care Gains Spotlight


About a year ago, over 100 business owners, self-employed individuals, and other organization leaders from western Wisconsin got together in Baldwin to explore the idea of forming a regional health care cooperative.  Now, after much work and dedication, the Cooperative Health Choices of Western Wisconsin (CHC) is emerging and poised to bring new health care options to our 17-county region of northwest Wisconsin.


I am enthused by the effort spearheaded by the St. Croix County Economic Development Corporation and members of its Western Wisconsin steering committee to launch a regional cooperative health program that will expand choices and enhance affordability.  This effort follows successful legislative reforms I worked on in 2003 and 2005 to enable cooperatives to provide health insurance.


To learn more, a public webcast is scheduled for Thursday, May 14, 2009 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Information and instructions can be found online at:  The webcast will be a live stream to allow attendees to send questions to presenters about the health benefit purchasing cooperatives.


Small businesses are on the frontlines of finding alternative means to provide affordable health care to their employees.  In a cooperative model, they can band together to improve purchasing power.  This regional project was modeled after the successful Farmers’ Health Cooperative of Wisconsin (FHCW), a statewide health cooperative designed by and for farmers and agri-businesses.  FHCW has been in operation for two years and has over 2,200 members, providing expanded benefits to a demographic that often had an extraordinarily difficult time getting quality, affordable health care.


This week, health care cooperatives are also gaining national attention before U.S. Congress.  Mr. Bill Oemichen, President and CEO of the Cooperative Network and chief architect of FHCW, testified before the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee as to how cooperatives can be one system in delivering quality insurance coverage nationwide. 


Co-op care is desirable over government-run programs because members, not bureaucrats, exercise control over benefits and programs.  Cooperatives aim for reduced costs by encouraging and incentivizing healthy lifestyles while pooling small groups and individuals to get better purchasing power.


If you are interested in regular email updates from the Cooperative Health Choices of Western Wisconsin or want more information, send an email to me at