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Insurance Giants Gain Unlikely Rival in Maryland Co-Op

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UnitedHealth Group Inc. and other U.S. health insurers will soon have company in Maryland: a nonprofit started by a county government that plans to sell coverage at rates as much as 30 percent lower than competitors.

Backed by $65 million in federal loans, Howard County, a suburban area south of Baltimore, will become the first municipality to establish a nonprofit, member-run health co-op to compete with commercial insurers under a provision in the 2010 Affordable Care Act.