Farm Bureau, Medica team up for health plan for farmers
The Nebraska Farm Bureau on Wednesday announced a new health insurance plan specifically geared for farmers, ranchers and agriculture-related businesses.
The large group association health plan, which will officially be called the Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan, will be available to qualifying members of the Nebraska Farm Bureau during an enrollment period that lasts from Oct. 1-Dec. 1.
“I don’t think there has been a group of individuals hurt more by the high cost of health insurance than farm and ranch families. By establishing this new AHP for our qualified members, we know it will help cut costs associated with health insurance premiums,” Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said.
The Farm Bureau held listening sessions with more than 400 farmers and ranchers around the state over the summer, and most said the affordability of health care, health insurance, and access to both, was one of, if not the highest issue on their list of concerns.
Nelson said farm families have faced “significant increased costs and fewer and fewer choices” on the individual health insurance market over the past few years, with some reporting paying as much as $40,000 a year for health insurance premiums.
“We have listened to the concerns of farmers and ranchers and believe this new AHP will present a great opportunity, and we think the only opportunity of Nebraska farmers and ranchers to form a large risk group to help lower premiums,” Nelson said.
The Farm Bureau formed a seven-member board to sponsor and manage the plan, which is required to comply with state and federal laws for AHPs. The board has partnered with Medica Inc. to provide the insurance.
Medica, which is the only company offering individual health insurance to Nebraskans on the Affordable Care Act Marketplace Exchange, “jumped at the chance” to work with the Farm Bureau, said Geoff Bartsh, Medica vice president of individual and family business.
“We are delighted to bring another health coverage option to the farmers and ranchers in Nebraska because it gives them a greater say in their health plan choices moving forward,” Bartsh said.
Farm Bureau officials said they expect at least 750 to 1,000 members to sign up for the new plan the first year, and they expect premiums to be about 25 percent lower than current ACA individual plans available to farmers and ranchers and about 5 percent lower for agribusinesses.
Bartsh said Medica expects the risk pool for the Farm Bureau insurance product to be better than the individual market overall, which is why it is offering lower rates.
Rules for association health plans, which allow business owners and groups to band together to offer health insurance, were finalized at the federal level in June.
Federal officials have said the plans will help level the playing field for small businesses and give them more power to negotiate lower rates with insurers.