Cooperatives are used to provide a wide range of healthcare, childcare, and education services to their member-owners.
Cooperatives have been part of the U.S. healthcare system since the early 1900s, when hospitals formed the earliest purchasing groups. Although joint purchasing by hospitals is still an active subsector within healthcare, organizations and individuals cooperate to achieve a wide range of health-related goals. Hospitals and clinics save money by engaging in joint purchasing or service delivery; employer groups jointly negotiate better choices in health insurance rates for their employees; cooperatives/collectives offer controlled access to medical marijuana; worker-owned homecare cooperatives strive to improve service to clients through better working conditions for their workers; and provider networks cooperate to improve rural health care. The organizations may be organized as nonprofits or cooperatives, serving local, regional and/or national markets.
The structure and scope of childcare and education cooperatives vary widely. Childcare cooperatives are organized around structured activities and supervised play for toddlers through preschool-aged children, the cooperative typically depends on parent assistance in the classroom.
Preschool options may be found in both childcare and educational cooperatives that directly deliver educational services to the children of parent members.
Educational cooperatives may serve a collective purchasing function for educational institutions. The decentralized nature of the public educational system provides many opportunities to achieve purchasing efficiencies through cooperative arrangements.
Other cooperatives or mutuals are organized to meet the service needs of their members.