“Our No. 1 legislative priority is more affordable health care for our members,” says Randy Kron, Indiana Farm Bureau president and a farmer from Evansville.
“We’ve spent a year listening to members and researching how we could offer an alternative which would enable them to obtain more affordable health insurance,” he explains. “No matter where we go, the story is the same. Some spouses work only to get health insurance when they would rather be working on the farm. Others farm but have a part-time job to get insurance.
“A sizable number of families tells us they no longer have health insurance. They say they simply can’t afford it at today’s prices.”
Rising health care costs and increasing costs of health insurance, or increasing deductibles for policies, is a growing issue for all Hoosiers. Kron says after listening to INFB members, it’s the top issue on the organization’s legislative agenda. Katrina Hall, director of public policy, says INFB could devote as much as 90% of its time during the upcoming legislative session to making sure legislators understand how important this issue is, and what changes are needed.
Indiana Farm Bureau celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019. Kron says the push to provide affordable health care for members reflects why Farm Bureau was founded. The organization was formed so farmers could band together, gather more clout and obtain services they need.
“They needed a cheaper alternative for buying inputs, and that’s why Farm Bureau co-ops were formed in the 1920s,” Kron explains. “The insurance company was started so that rural Hoosiers could have affordable insurance for property.
“It is why electric co-ops were organized in the 1930s across the state. Rural areas weren’t being served with electricity like their urban neighbors. When people have seen a need, they have banded together to address the problem.
“This time the need is affordable health care, and that’s why we’re making it a priority.”
Research and surveys conducted by INFB during the past year led to this point, Kron notes. Some 78% of Hoosier farmers say the cost of health care is impacting their business. And 48% of farmers under the age of 65 say they’ve chosen not to get treatment for a health condition because of cost.
According to INFB’s research, there isn’t a single option available on the market today that can provide affordable health care for single-proprietor businesses. Yet in the INFB survey, 70% of members report being single proprietors. That can include partners in a partnership.
Tennessee Farm Bureau addressed this situation 25 years ago by forming an association that offers health insurance to members. Farm Bureaus in other states are now seeking to do the same thing.
“To do it in Indiana, we need a legislative change which would allow health insurance plans offered by an association to cover single proprietors,” Hall says. “That’s why it’s the No. 1 legislative priority.”
The nuts and bolts of exactly how such a system would work are somewhat complex. Look for more information as the movement for legislative change progresses.
Gov. Eric Holcomb attended INFB’s annual awards banquet in West Baden. While he didn’t endorse legislative change, he did tell the crowd that his legislative priorities align rather well with Indiana Farm Bureau’s priorities.
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