I had an idea while in the shower – where most great ideas come from. A small group of people could get together and start a co-op for healthcare. A co-op is basically a group of people united voluntarily to meet a goal. The goal of the healthcare co-op I am imagining would be to help lower individual healthcare costs by evenly distributing the group's medical costs.
For example, if a co-op consisted of 20 people and the group's medical costs for the month was $1,500, then each person would pay $75. In some situations, this could save individuals a lot of money. If Person A has a $300 bill contributing to that monthly cost, they only have to pay $75 – saving $225! The converse may be true at times, too. If Person B has no bills contributing to that monthly cost, they still have to pay $75. Overall – and over time, with more co-op members – I believe it would help people save money on healthcare costs.
When the group is small, the members could even agree to certain deductible percentages – amounts of the healthcare costs a member would need to meet on their own before the rest would be covered by the co-op. This would prevent the cost from jumping very high when large bills come in. Obviously a small co-op of 20 could not easily handle a month with a $200,000 cost ($10,000 per member). On the other hand, I believe most healthcare providers will work with patients to set up payment plans, so even a small co-op might be able to handle such large bills, broken up over many a couple years.
What I like about this idea is that it could be experimented with. I think it would be relatively easy for me to get 20 people to try this with, as long as we started with the clear notice that it's not guaranteed each month that your healthcare costs will be lowered. Since it would start out month-to-month, they would need to understand the money they pay to the co-op could not be refunded. People could try it for as long as they wanted, and leave whenever they wanted. It would not have to be a replacement for conventional insurance – people could join the co-op whether insured or not. A charity sub-fund could be set up that members could optionally pay into, to help cover the co-op fees for members in financial hardship.
This is not really a new idea, of course. There have been many health co-ops before, though in my limited research it appears many were part of government programs or relied in part on government funding. What I am imagining would just be a loose organization of people coming together with a pretty simple contract; it wouldn't require a big legal-ish process to set up or run. There would be overhead if the co-op grew, but I think it could be kept pretty low.
What do you think?