Dakota Farmer

Find affordable health coverage for your farm family

The South Dakota Farm Bureau executive director offers tips on finding the right coverage for you.

4 Min Read
Doctor talking to a girl and her mother
CHOOSING HEALTH COVERAGE: Choosing health coverage for farm families can be a real struggle, balancing coverage with affordability. John Fedele/Getty Images

If farm families have sick kids, or if the farmer or spouse needs medical attention, the last thing they want to worry about is how to pay the medical bill.

Krystil Smit, executive director of South Dakota Farm Bureau, talks about the differences in health coverage on the market, some of the options many state Farm Bureau members have access to, and how to decide what type of coverage might be best for different circumstances.

How can farmers save money and still cover their families for health care needs?

The Farm Progress podcast — FP Next — powered by John Deere, set out to answer this question and more recently in a Deep Dive episode.

Burning questions

Gleaned from the podcast, here are some of the questions Smit answered, giving insights on how to decide what type of health coverage you need for your family:

What are the basic considerations for health coverage for a family? One of the most common questions we get is, “Can you help us with health care costs?” Most farmers and ranchers are self-employed, and there is often a huge barrier in terms of access and affordability of health care for them.

As many know, a lot of times, one of the spouses needs to have off-farm employment to access that health care coverage for the family. Today, we are in our third year of offering South Dakota Farm Bureau health plans.

Related:FP Next: A farm dog is a farmer’s best friend

Finding health coverage can be very complicated. People go to the marketplace and view plans and try to figure out what is best for their family. Farm Bureau plans are very similar to plans on the marketplace today.

Families should take stock in their present family situation. Do you have children? Are you later in life? We also have Medicare plans. So, SDFB plans can meet every family where they are at, based on their needs. There are different offerings in terms of deductibles and co-pays, which impact premiums as well.

I would suggest, every year, taking time to compare current health care coverage and see what is out there and offered.

How do you decide deductibles and the type of coverage you need for your family situation? As you go into making those decisions, household budgets come into play, along with the health and age of your family.

When our kids were little, we went to the doctor a lot. There were well-baby visits. It seemed like the kids were constantly being seen at the doctor’s office. As they grow older, the problems get bigger, broken bones and things like that. So, it kind of depends on what is happening with your family.

If you choose deductibles more in the moderate range, premiums are going to be higher. Some families are all right with a higher premium if they know that they have full coverage if anything happens.

I know a family with children who experienced an ATV accident at the same time they were having a brand-new baby. They incurred a lot of medical expenses within three days. They were at the hospital waiting to be induced into labor for their fourth baby boy when their oldest boy was involved in an ATV accident that required an air ambulance to the hospital.

The mother told me that she was focused on fighting for her oldest son’s life while waiting for the arrival of their fourth child to come into the world. The last thing they wanted to worry about was what it was all going to cost.

They fortunately chose a “Cadillac” version of health care plans. Thinking about deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, their plans cover annual doctor visits, about anything you see a doctor for, and co-pay is the only expense.

There are other plans, where basically the deductibles go up. A lot of family farms can absorb larger expenses all at once. Family farmers might be able to come up with larger deductibles because they maybe don’t go to the doctor as much, and they have an older family, for instance. You have to look at all the options.

How do you balance between affordability and what you need for coverage? I’ve talked with several people using our health plans, from families with small children and teens to empty nesters. Many want peace of mind with their coverage. There are always surprises with medical issues.

So, you need to ask yourself if you would rather just pay a $25 co-pay and have low deductibles, so you know you won’t be caught by a surprise. Or do you have money put away so you can absorb a major medical event? It’s all about planning and the stage of life for your family.

To listen to the entire podcast with Smit, and other episodes of FP Next, visit farmprogress.com/program/fp-next.

Read more about:

Rural Health

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton of Bismarck, N.D., has been editor of Dakota Farmer since 2021. Before working at Farm Progress, she was an NDSU 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D. Prior to that, she was a farm and ranch reporter at KFGO Radio in Fargo.

McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in ag communications and a master’s in Extension education and youth development.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, as a member of North Dakota Agri-Women, Agriculture Communicators Network Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like