Instead it got more than 40,000.

Today, the health insurance co-op has over 72,000 members, operates in two states and is considered one of the most successful insurance co-ops in the country.

And it did it by being different: Offering free care to people with chronic disease, providing case management and free or low-cost mental health care and maintaining relationships with doctors and hospitals throughout the state at a time when the insurers closest competitor was telling its clients they were limited in the doctors they could see.

We took a risk in this approach of having a broad network that would accommodate the entire service area, allow people throughout the state to go to any hospital in network, Lewis told more than a dozen audience members during Thursdays Great Falls Forum at the Lewiston Public Library. Its been one of the hallmarks of our success.

Lewis, CEO of Community Health Options, spent an hour speaking about the co-ops approach to health insurance and its mission to improve health and provide benefits that are both high-quality and affordable.

Were going to fall apart at the seams in terms of our health care economy, hesaid.Its not sustainable. Its not sustainable for employers, its not sustainable for families and individuals. I bring this up because that is the impetus for our start.

Lewiston-based Community Health Options, formerly Maine Community Health Options, formed in 2011 and began selling health insurance plans in fall 2013. It was a novel concept created by the Affordable Care Act. The nonprofit health insurance company is run by and for members.

With its low prices and statewide network of doctors and hospitals, Community Health Options immediately ruled the Affordable Care Acts health insurance marketplace in Maine.

Community Health Options grew profitable while other co-ops around the country struggled to survive. It also lowered prices while other co-ops, and many traditional insurance companies, raised theirs.

With 25 percent of its members hovering close to the poverty line, it worked to educate members about their plan options and the government subsidies available to them so they didnt pay more than they had to.

And with a number of its members dealing with chronic disease, such as diabetes, it worked to get people healthy by providing free care, testing and generic medications for a handful of chronic diseases.

The advantage to us is increased medication adherence, because some of the worst health outcomes can occur when someone cant afford medication and so they have an acute crisis and wind up in the hospital or are readmitted to the hospital, Lewis said.

This fall marks Community Health Options third open enrollment period, the season when anyone can buy health insurance. The co-op will experience some changes, including premiums that will increase about half a percent and a greater number of plans that will include dental coverage for children.

It will also have new competition. Aetna will join the ACA marketplace in Maine for 2016.

Open enrollment starts Nov. 1. Lewis said hed like to see people use that period to gauge their insurance needs and shop around, even if that means they decide Community Health Options isnt their best option.

Wed rather have people that are into coverage that is right for them, he said.

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Jacobucci of Palatine died Sunday after suffering what authorities said was an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting. He was 49.

According to his friend, Rich Harty, Jacobucci had been out watering his garden when he was stung. Apparently, he had gone behind a hedge of bushes to turn on the spigot when the sting occurred.

Guy did not know he was allergic to bee stings, Harty said. I hope that this starts a conversation about allergies and getting tested. Potentially, this could have been avoidable if he had known and if he had carried an EpiPen. Well never know, but I hope people get tested.

Jacobucci had spent more than 20 years in the insurance industry, and most recently worked as a senior vice president at Assurance in Schaumburg. Co-workers there said they are still trying to absorb the shock of losing such a big presence in their company.

Guy was one of those people that there was no in between, said Jackie Gould, chief operating officer at Assurance. Everyone that met him either liked him, or loved him. There was never anything on the lower end of the scale with him.

Gould described how he extended his warmth beyond the company, to the insurance clients he served.

He was one of our brokers, which is very much a client-facing role, Gould added. He had clients in a number of different industries, but he was a specialist in staffing and with professional employer organizations, who have particularly challenging insurance needs. He was an industry leader in that area.

In his Assurance biography, Jacobucci described his style as hands-on in working to build client relationships and develop strategic service plans. But he also included his background as a chef and pastry chef trained by Kendall College, something not often found on insurance executive resumes.

He wore his heart on his sleeve, and everyone who knew Guy knew that he had a passion for cooking, Gould adds. Many of us were lucky enough to get to experience it, in particular with his holiday cookie baking.

As part of his holiday tradition, Jacobucci personally baked more than 1,500 cookies to distribute to clients. According to Harty, it took eight weeks to bake, freeze and pack all of the batches, and he kept a spreadsheet of everyones favorites.

Jacobucci had planned to start baking the first round for this year on Tuesday.

Jacobucci is survived by his sisters Rose (Rich) Gadzinski and Toni (the late Dale) Baikauskas; and several nieces and nephews.

Visitation will take place from 3 to 9 pm today at Smith Corcoran Funeral Home, 185 E. Northwest Hwy., Palatine, before a 10:30 am funeral Mass Saturday at Holy Family Catholic Community, 2515 W. Palatine Road in Inverness.

#x2022; Daily Herald staff writer Christopher Placek contributed to this report.



Constance Gail Fortune, who was a licensed insurance agent, sold auto, life and homeowners policies to seniors between October 2010 and September 2012 but never purchased them. Instead, she used the premiums to cover her rent and other personal expenses, according to authorities.



SPRINGFIELD When it comes to ones hard earned money it can be difficult to decide how to properly invest it, save it and spend it.

One thing I always tell people is to start planning early, whether its for your retirement, kids college education, do it now, said Yolanda De La Cruz, who owns DP Insurance Financial Services LLC in Springfield along with her husband Samuel Perez.

This Friday the couple will be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in conjunction with the one year anniversary at their business located at 878 Liberty Street in Springfield, but De La Cruzs career in finance goes back to the late 1980s when she became a supervisor at Bank of America.

I always had an interest in finances and passionate to service and educate people, she said.

De La Cruz later went on to be an assistant manager, a business specialist and eventually an investment representative first with Bank of America and later with MassMutual until finally she decided to branch out on her own.

I truly love working with families and helping them plan for those important moments in their lives whether its saving for retirement, investing in life insurance or even funeral expenses policies, she said.

De La Cruz said there is no fee for people to come in for a consultation with an agent.

DP Insurance Financial Services, LLC currently has eight agents including two agents who work directly with La Rosa Funeral home in Holyoke and La Puerta Del Cielo in Springfield.

These agents work with us, but also deal directly with the funeral homes offering insurance to people who may have a medical condition and think they may not be approved, such as a final expense policy to cover their funeral cost. These policies guarantee a benefit alleviating the burden to their loved ones, she said. DP Insurance represents top rated insurance companies with over 100 years of experience specializing in life Insurance products such as final expense for funeral cost at an affordable price.



In June, Swiss insurance provider, CSS Insurance announced that it would launch a pilot program to monitor its customers' digital pedometers. Now that project is nearly halfway completed, the company's higher-ups report that the results have been overwhelmingly positive--so positive, in fact, that the provider may soon start charging higher premiums for those who don't meet their daily step quota or choose not to participate in the program, according to the Swiss news organization, The Local.

The pilot program, called MyStep, is the first of its kind by any insurer in Europe. The company monitors the step count of 2,000 people using digital pedometers like Fitbits or Apple Watches. That information is regularly synced with CSS online portal. This works for both the insurer and the customer, the company reasons: Customers can take more ownership over their health and push themselves to complete the recommended 10,000 steps per day (though they could find the same information on their Fitbit). And the insurance company can charge more for those who don't meet it. The pilot program is also intended to see how much information customers are willing to share with their insurance providers, The Local reports, and it looks like they're willing to share a lot if it means lower premiums.

This may be the first time insurers directly monitor their customers' health data, but it certainly won't be the last; a number of health insurance providers think it's inevitable that customers will hand over their data. One insurance data expert even predicted to the newspaper Blick that we may have nanochips implanted in our arms to continuously update our online activity profiles for insurance companies. And they may be right--as healthcare costs rise and a large percentage of the population remains obese, it may seem unfair for two people to pay the same amount in premiums if one is much more active than the other.

It's only a matter of time before similar programs make their way to the US--our healthcare is the most expensive in the world, and insurance companies are constantly on the lookout for new ways to pay for it. Get ready to start running around your living room in circles at night to meet that 10,000-step quota.