Indiana farm families have a new option for health coverage through Indiana Farm Bureau. The organization is today launching its INFB Health Plans program as a member benefit.
While technically not insurance, it does provide similar types of health coverage that people would get through a private insurance company.
“These plans are a contract. They look and will seem like insurance. The conversations that we have about them sound like insurance, but these plans are actually a contract between Indiana Farm Bureau and the member,” said Megan Ritter, executive director of administration for Indiana Farm Bureau.
The INFB worked with the Indiana General Assembly earlier this year to get legislation approved to allow the nonprofit agricultural organization to offer health benefits coverage.
American farmers have for years expressed concerns over rising health care costs.
“Every time the conversation eventually comes around to health care coverage costs,” said INFB President Randy Kron. “Most of them would tell you their spouse works off the farm, or they have a part-time job, to be able to make ends meet because of health care costs.”
As a new member benefit, INFB Health Plans will address a need in the Indiana agriculture community, including health coverage, dental and vision coverage, and Medicare Supplemental plans. The health plan is administered through UnitedHealthcare.
“These plans were built to provide significant cost savings for sole proprietors who do not have access to an employer’s health insurance plan,” said Patrick Williams, INFB Health Plans manager.
Being self-employed, farmers often purchase their own health insurance through the Indiana federal marketplace. While the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is an option, the farm bureau says farmers do not typically qualify for subsidies, so the rates are very high.
”On average, when compared to non-subsidized Affordable Care Act plans, INFB members will find that individual plans are 30-50% less and family plans are 50-70% less,” said Williams.
LaPorte County farmer Jake Smoker, who is 33 years old and married with two young children, says the lack of health coverage is keeping young people from becoming farmers.
“You see guys and girls leaving the family farm, not because they don’t love it, it’s because they can’t afford it,” said Smoker.
Smoker says he can offer competitive pay for farmworkers, but he cannot keep them due to the cost of health insurance. He thinks the new plan will help.
Farm Bureau says once members get coverage, they will not lose it if they make regular payments.
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Ritter explained how the plans work.
Smoker explained how health care costs are driving people away from the farm.