The Maine Bureau of Insurance has issued a license to Lewiston-based Maine Community Health Options to operate a nonprofit, cooperative health insurance company in Maine.

It’s the first nonprofit, Maine-based health insurer to be approved in the state since Anthem Inc. purchased Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maine in 2000, according to a news release.

It’s also the first plan of its kind to be approved since the federal Affordable Care Act authorized the start of consumer-directed health insurers to increase competition.

The company’s license to operate in Maine was issued Feb. 28 and is effective through Aug. 10, 2014, according to the bureau’s website.

The company plans to make its health insurance products available to small businesses and individuals this fall, with coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014.

Company officials promise lower costs and better coverage for health plan members.

The cooperative received a five-year, $7 million federal start-up loans. It also got a second, $55 million, 15-year federal loan to capitalize benefit plans.

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