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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR data is current as of December 5, 2019

Title 45Subtitle ASubchapter BPart 156 → Subpart F


Title 45: Public Welfare
PART 156—HEALTH INSURANCE ISSUER STANDARDS UNDER THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT, INCLUDING STANDARDS RELATED TO EXCHANGES


Subpart F—Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan Program


Contents
§156.500   Basis and scope.
§156.505   Definitions.
§156.510   Eligibility.
§156.515   CO-OP standards.
§156.520   Loan terms.

§156.500   Basis and scope.

This subpart implements section 1322 of the Affordable Care Act by establishing the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program to foster the creation of new consumer-governed, private, nonprofit health insurance issuers, known as “CO-OPs.” Under this program, loans are awarded to encourage the development of CO-OPs. Applicants that meet the eligibility standards of the CO-OP program may apply to receive loans to help fund start-up costs and meet the solvency requirements of States in which the applicant seeks to be licensed to issue CO-OP qualified health plans. This subpart sets forth the eligibility and governance requirements for the CO-OP program, CO-OP standards, and the terms for loans awarded under the CO-OP program.

§156.505   Definitions.

The following definitions apply to this subpart:

Applicant means an entity eligible to apply for a loan described in §156.520 of this subpart.

Consumer operated and oriented plan (CO-OP) means a loan recipient that satisfies the standards in section 1322(c) of the Affordable Care Act and §156.515 of this subpart within the timeframes specified in this subpart.

CO-OP qualified health plan means a health plan that has in effect a certification that it meets the standards described in subpart C of this part, except that the plan can be deemed certified by CMS or an entity designated by CMS as described in §156.520(e).

Exchange has the meaning given to the term in §155.20 of this subchapter.

Formation board means the initial board of directors of the applicant or loan recipient before it has begun accepting enrollment and had an election by the members of the organization to the board of directors.

Individual market has the meaning given to the term in §155.20 of this subchapter.

Issuer has the meaning given to the term in §155.20 of this subchapter.

Member means an individual covered under health insurance policies issued by a loan recipient.

Nonprofit member organization or nonprofit member corporation means a nonprofit, not-for-profit, public benefit, or similar membership entity organized as appropriate under State law.

Operational board means the board of directors elected by the members of the loan recipient after it has begun accepting enrollment.

Predecessor, with respect to a new entity, means any entity that participates in a merger, consolidation, purchase or acquisition of property or stock, corporate separation, or other similar business transaction that results in the formation of the new entity.

Pre-existing issuer means a health insurance issuer licensed by a State regulator that marketed individual or group health insurance benefit plans (other than Medicare or Medicaid Managed Care plans) on July 16, 2009.

Qualified nonprofit health insurance issuer means an entity that satisfies or can reasonably be expected to satisfy the standards in section 1322(c) of the Affordable Care Act and §156.515 of this subpart within the time frames specified in this subpart, until such time as CMS determines the entity does not satisfy or cannot reasonably be expected to satisfy these standards.

Related entity means an entity that shares common ownership, control, or governance structure (including management team or Board members) with a pre-existing issuer, and satisfies at least one of the following conditions:

(1) Retains responsibilities for the services to be provided by the issuer.

(2) Furnishes services to the issuer's enrollees under an oral or written agreement.

(3) Performs some of the issuer's management functions under contract or delegation.

Representative means an officer, director, or trustee of an organization, or group of organizations; or a senior executive or high-level representative of the Federal government, or a State or local government or a sub-unit thereof.

SHOP has the meaning given to the term in §155.20 of this subchapter.

Small group market has the meaning given to the term in §155.20 of this subchapter.

Solvency Loan means a loan provided by CMS to a loan recipient in order to meet State solvency and reserve requirements.

Sponsor means an organization or individual that is involved in the development, creation, or organization of the CO-OP or provides 40 percent or more in total funding to a CO-OP (excluding any loans received from the CO-OP Program).

Start-up Loan means a loan provided by CMS to a loan recipient for costs associated with establishing a CO-OP.

State has the meaning given to the term in §155.20 of this subchapter.

[76 FR 77411, Dec. 13, 2011, as amended at 77 FR 18474, Mar. 27, 2012; 81 FR 29155, May 11, 2016; 81 FR 94181, Dec. 22, 2016]

§156.510   Eligibility.

(a) General. In addition to the eligibility standards set forth in the CO-OP program Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), to be eligible to apply for and receive a loan under the CO-OP program, an organization must intend to become a CO-OP and be a nonprofit member organization.

(b) Exclusions from eligibility. (1) Subject to paragraph (b)(2) of this section, an organization is not eligible to apply for a loan if:

(i) The organization or a sponsor of the organization is a pre-existing issuer, a holding company (an organization that exists primarily to hold stock in other companies) that controls a pre-existing issuer, a trade association comprised of pre-existing issuers and whose purpose is to represent the interests of the health insurance industry, a foundation established by a pre-existing issuer, a related entity, or a predecessor of either a pre-existing issuer or related entity;

(ii) The organization receives 25 percent or more of its total funding (excluding any loans received from the CO-OP Program) from pre-existing issuers, holding companies (organizations that exists primarily to hold stock in other companies) that control pre-existing issuers, trade associations comprised of pre-existing issuers and whose purpose is to represent the interests of the health insurance industry, foundations established by a pre-existing issuer, a related entity, or a predecessor of either a pre-existing issuer or related entity; or

(iii) A State or local government, any political subdivision thereof, or any instrumentality of such government or political subdivision is a sponsor of the organization. The organization receives 40 percent or more of its total funding (excluding any loans received from the CO-OP Program) from a State or local government, any political subdivision thereof, or any instrumentality of such a government or political subdivision.

(2) The exclusions in paragraphs (b)(1)(i) and (b)(1)(ii) of this section do not exclude from eligibility an applicant that:

(i) Has as a sponsor a nonprofit, not-for-profit, public benefit, or similarly organized entity that is also a sponsor for a pre-existing issuer but is not an issuer, a foundation established by a pre-existing issuer, a holding company that controls a pre-existing issuer, or a trade association comprised of pre-existing issuers and whose purpose is to represent the interests of the health insurance industry, provided that the pre-existing issuer sponsored by the nonprofit organization does not share any of its board or the same chief executive with the applicant; or

(ii) Has purchased assets from a preexisting issuer provided that it is an arm's-length transaction where each party acts independently and has no other relationship with the other party.

(3) The exclusion of any instrumentality of a State or local government in paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section does not exclude from eligibility or sponsorship an organization that:

(i) Is not a government organization under State law;

(ii) Has no employee of a State or local government serving in his or her official capacity as a senior executive (for example, President, Chief Executive Officer, or Chief Financial Officer) for the organization; and

(iii) Has a board of directors on which fewer than half of its directors are employees of a State or local government serving in their official capacities.

[76 FR 77411, Dec. 13, 2011, as amended at 77 FR 18474, Mar. 27, 2012]

§156.515   CO-OP standards.

(a) General. A CO-OP must satisfy the standards in this section in addition to all other statutory, regulatory, or other requirements.

(b) Governance requirements. A CO-OP must meet the following governance requirements:

(1) Member control. A CO-OP must implement policies and procedures to foster and ensure member control of the organization. Accordingly, a CO-OP must meet the following requirements:

(i) The CO-OP must be governed by an operational board with a majority of directors elected by a majority vote of a quorum of the CO-OP's members that are age 18 or older;

(ii) All members age 18 or older must be eligible to vote for each of the directors on the organization's operational board subject to a vote of the members under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section;

(iii) Each member age 18 or older must have one vote in each election for each director subject to a vote of the members under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section in that election;

(iv) The first elected directors of the organization's operational board must be elected no later than one year after the effective date on which the organization provides coverage to its first member; the entire operational board must be elected or in place, and in full compliance with paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, no later than two years after the same date;

(v) Elections of the directors on the organization's operational board subject to a vote of the members under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section must be contested so that the total number of candidates for contested seats on the operational board exceeds the number of contested seats for such directors, except in cases where a seat is vacated mid- term due to death, resignation, or removal.

(2) Standards for board of directors. The operational board for a CO-OP must meet the following standards:

(i) Each director must meet ethical, conflict-of-interest, and disclosure standards;

(ii) Each director has one vote;

(iii) Positions on the board of directors may be designated for individuals with specialized expertise, experience, or affiliation (for example, providers, employers, and unions); and

(iv) [Reserved]

(v) Limitation on government and issuer participation. No representative of any Federal, State or local government (or of any political subdivision or instrumentality thereof) and no representative of any organization described in §156.510(b)(1)(i) (in the case of a representative of a State or local government or organization described in §156.510(b)(1)(i), with respect to a State in which the CO-OP issues policies), may serve on the CO-OP's formation board or as a director on the organization's operational board.

(3) Ethics and conflict of interest protections. The CO-OP must have governing documents that incorporate ethics, conflict of interest, and disclosure standards. The standards must protect against insurance industry involvement and interference. In addition, the standards must ensure that each director acts in the sole interest of the CO-OP, its members, and its local geographic community as appropriate, avoids self dealing, and acts prudently and consistently with the terms of the CO-OP's governance documents and applicable State and Federal law. At a minimum, these standards must include:

(i) A mechanism to identify potential ethical or other conflicts of interest;

(ii) A duty on the CO-OP's executive officers and directors to disclose all potential conflicts of interest;

(iii) A process to determine the extent to which a conflict exists;

(iv) A process to address any conflict of interest; and

(v) A process to be followed in the event a director or executive officer of the CO-OP violates these standards.

(4) Consumer focus. The CO-OP must operate with a strong consumer focus, including timeliness, responsiveness, and accountability to members.

(c) Standards for health plan issuance. A CO-OP must meet several standards for the issuance of health plans in the individual and small group market.

(1) At least two-thirds of the policies or contracts for health insurance coverage issued by a CO-OP in each State in which it is licensed must be CO-OP qualified health plans offered in the individual and small group markets.

(2) Loan recipients must offer a CO-OP qualified health plan at the silver and gold benefit levels, defined in section 1302(d) of the Affordable Care Act, in every individual market Exchange that serves the geographic regions in which the organization is licensed and intends to provide health care coverage. If offering at least one plan in the small group market, loan recipients must offer a CO-OP qualified health plan at both the silver and gold benefit levels, defined in section 1302(d) of the Affordable Care Act, in each SHOP that serves the geographic regions in which the organization offers coverage in the small group market.

(3) Within the earlier of thirty-six months following the initial drawdown of the Start-up Loan or one year following the initial drawdown of the Solvency Loan, loan recipients must be licensed in a State and offer at least one CO-OP qualified health plan at the silver and gold benefit levels, defined in section 1302(d) of the Affordable Care Act, in the individual market Exchanges and if the loan recipient offers coverage in the small group market, at the silver and gold benefit levels, defined in section 1302(d) of the Affordable Care Act, in the SHOPs. Loan recipients may only begin offering plans and accepting enrollment in the Exchanges for new CO-OP qualified health plans during the open enrollment period for each applicable Exchange.

(d) Requirement to become a CO-OP. Loan recipients must meet the standards of §156.515 no later than five years following initial drawdown of the Start-up Loan or three years following the initial drawdown of a Solvency Loan.

[76 FR 77411, Dec. 13, 2011, as amended at 81 FR 29155, May 11, 2016; 81 FR 94182, Dec. 22, 2016]

§156.520   Loan terms.

(a) Overview of Loans. Applicants may apply for the following loans under this section: Start-up Loans and Solvency Loans.

(1) Use of loans. All loans awarded under this subpart must be used in a manner that is consistent with the FOA, the loan agreement, and all other statutory, regulatory, or other requirements.

(2) Solvency loans. Solvency Loans awarded under this section will be structured in a manner that ensures that the loan amount is recognized by State insurance regulators as contributing to the State-determined reserve requirements or other solvency requirements (rather than debt) consistent with the insurance regulations for the States in which the loan recipient will offer a CO-OP qualified health plan.

(b) Repayment period. The loan recipient must make loan payments consistent with the approved repayment schedule in the loan agreement until the loan is paid in full consistent with State reserve requirements, solvency regulations, and requisite surplus note arrangements. Subject to their ability to meet State reserve requirements, solvency regulations, or requisite surplus note arrangements, the loan recipient must repay its loans and, if applicable, penalties within the repayment periods in paragraphs (b)(1), (b)(2), or (b)(3) of this section.

(1) The contractual repayment period for Start-up Loans and any applicable penalty pursuant to paragraph (c)(3) of this section is 5 years following each drawdown of loan funds consistent with the terms of the loan agreement.

(2) The contractual repayment period for Solvency Loans and any applicable penalty pursuant to paragraph (c)(3) of this section is 15 years following each drawdown of loan funds consistent with the terms of the loan agreement.

(3) Changes to the loan terms, including the repayment periods, may be executed if CMS determines that the loan recipient is unable to repay the loans as a result of State reserve requirements, solvency regulations, or requisite surplus note arrangements or without compromising coverage stability, member control, quality of care, or market stability. In the case of a loan modification or workout, the repayment period for loans awarded under this subpart is the repayment period established in the loan modification or workout. The revised terms must meet all other regulatory, statutory, and other requirements.

(c) Interest rates. Loan recipients will be charged interest for the loans awarded under this subpart. Interest will be accrued starting from the date of drawdown on the loan amounts that have been drawn down and not yet repaid by the loan recipient. The interest rate will be determined based on the date of award.

(1) Start-up Loans. Consistent with the terms of the loan agreement, the interest rate for Start-up Loans is equal to the greater of the average interest rate on marketable Treasury securities of similar maturity minus one percentage point or zero percent. If the loan recipient's loan agreement is terminated by CMS, the loan recipient will be charged the interest and penalty described in paragraph (c)(3) of this section.

(2) Solvency Loans. Consistent with the terms of the loan agreement, the interest rate for Solvency Loans is equal to the greater of the average interest rate on marketable Treasury securities of similar maturity minus two percentage points or zero percent. If a loan recipient's loan agreement is terminated by CMS, the loan recipient will be charged the interest and penalty described in paragraph (c)(3) of this section.

(3) Penalty payment. If CMS terminates a loan recipient's loan agreement because the loan recipient is not in compliance with program rules or the terms of its loan agreement, or CMS has reason to believe that the organization engages in, or has engaged in, criminal or fraudulent activities or activities that cause material harm to the organization's members or the government, the loan recipient must repay 110 percent of the aggregate amount of loans received under this subpart. In addition, the loan recipient must pay interest on the aggregate amount of loans received for the period the loans were outstanding equal to the average interest rate on marketable Treasury securities of similar maturity.

(d) Failure to pay. Loan recipients that fail to make loan payments consistent with the repayment schedule or loan modification or workout approved by CMS will be subject to any and all remedies available to CMS under law to collect the debt.

(e) Deeming of CO-OP qualified health plans. Health plans offered by a loan recipient may be deemed certified as a CO-OP qualified health plan to participate in the Exchanges for two years and may be recertified every two years for up to ten years following the life of any loan awarded to the loan recipient under this subpart, consistent with section 1301(a)(2) of the Affordable Care Act.

(1) To be deemed as certified to participate in the Exchanges, the plan must comply with the standards for CO-OP qualified health plans set forth pursuant to section 1311(c) of the Affordable Care Act, all State-specific standards established by an Exchange for qualified health plans operating in that Exchange, except for those State-specific standards that operate to exclude loan recipients due to being new issuers or based on other characteristics that are inherent in the design of a CO-OP, and the standards of the CO-OP program as set forth in this subpart.

(2) A loan recipient seeking to have a plan deemed as certified to participate in the Exchanges must provide evidence to CMS or an entity designated by CMS that the plan complies with the standards for CO-OP qualified health plans set forth pursuant to section 1311(c) of the Affordable Care Act, all State-specific standards established by an Exchange for qualified health plans operating in that Exchange, except for those State-specific standards that operate to exclude loan recipients due to being new issuers or based on other characteristics that are inherent in the design of a CO-OP, and the standards of the CO-OP program as set forth in this subpart.

(3) If a plan offered by a loan recipient is deemed to be certified to participate in the Exchanges or loses its deemed status and is no longer certified to participate in the Exchanges, CMS or an entity designated by CMS will provide notice to the Exchanges in which the loan recipient offers CO-OP qualified health plans.

(f) Conversions. The loan recipient shall not convert or sell to a for-profit or non-consumer operated entity at any time after receiving a loan under this subpart. The loan recipient shall not undertake any transaction that would result in the CO-OP implementing a governance structure that does not meet the standards in this subpart.

[76 FR 77411, Dec. 13, 2011, as amended at 77 FR 18474, Mar. 27, 2012]

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