Indiana Farm Bureau Inc. made providing affordable health care to members its top legislative priority for 2020. The Legislature delivered, authorizing necessary changes so INFB can proceed with plans.
What will the new health care initiative look like? Indiana Prairie Farmer posed questions to Katrina Hall, INFB director of public policy:
Why did INFB need assistance from the Legislature? Existing Indiana statutes didn’t allow associations to offer health coverage unless there were at least two people in the group. Nearly 80% of our farmer-members are sole proprietors, so they weren’t eligible for shared-risk advantages of group plans. Many told us they didn’t have any health coverage because they couldn’t afford premiums.
Working this through the Legislature was an incredible story. We’re grateful to other ag groups who backed it, including the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Growers, Indiana Pork, the Agribusiness Council of Indiana, and many more. We also thank Ed Charbonneau, state senator from Valparaiso, who asked to carry the legislation and worked tirelessly. There was amazing support. However, because it became tied to controversial legislation, we waited until the last few hours for final approval. INFB also agreed to pay Indiana the equivalent of what the insurance tax would be on premiums.
What comes next? We have teams working on health benefit plans. We expect to offer them to INFB members by the fourth quarter of 2020, effective Jan. 1, 2021. Some people hoped they would be available sooner, but we want to make sure we do this correctly and everything is in order before enrollment.
Who will enroll members? Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance doesn’t include a health insurance company. Indiana Farm Bureau Inc. will create an entity affiliated with INFB. Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance agents will be allowed to sell plans. We also intend to offer vision, dental and Medicare supplements for those with Medicare coverage.
Will health care coverage be affordable? We’ve sought advice from Tennessee Farm Bureau, which pioneered a successful program 25 years ago. Based on their input, we believe our members will be able to obtain coverage at a significant savings compared to other options. There will be individual underwriting. You will need to qualify for coverage.
Will everyone who applies be accepted? Probably not, since individual underwriting is part of the process. However, Tennessee reports that over 25 years, about 9 of 10 applicants were accepted. Kansas began a similar program recently, and their acceptance rate is between 8 and 9 of 10. However, once you’re accepted and continue paying premiums, you can’t be removed, even if you develop a serious illness.
Will your plan negatively affect the Affordable Care Act by pulling out healthy people? No. A study indicates that only 2% of farmers are currently in the ACA. Many say they couldn’t afford ACA coverage. That’s why many members currently don’t have health insurance, unless they’re eligible for ACA benefits, or get health benefits through a part-time job or a spouse has off-farm employment.