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State Farm Bureaus work to join successful health care coverage program

Indiana Farm Bureau says the health care coverage plans they’ve been offering members for more than three years helped fill a huge need.

Megan Ritter with Indiana Farm Bureau says they did about 18 months of research before offering their health plans, and found farmers needed affordable options. “And of those who we asked, 48% of those farmers under age 65 said that they had not sought treatment for a health care condition because of cost.” Ritter says that same research showed the cost of health care affected nearly 80% of their members’ farm businesses.

Health Plans Manager Steve Allen says Indiana is starting its fourth year of offering coverage, and nearly 4,200 plans are bound with 8800 lives covered.  He says Indiana Farm Bureau’s four health coverage plans have not only helped long-time members but have attracted new members.  “Of the members who joined in 2023, roughly 37% joined solely for the purpose of getting a health plan.”

Six states currently offer Farm Bureau health care coverage to members.  Tennessee has been offering health coverage since 1947.  Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Texas and Indiana are also offering health coverage.

Audio: Megan Ritter and Steve Allen from Indiana Farm Bureau discuss their program with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

Missouri, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are seeking state legislative approval to offer health care coverage. State Farm Bureau leaders are running out of time to convince state lawmakers to let the organization offer health care coverage.

In Missouri, Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins remains optimistic the General Assembly can still take action this session. “The Missouri General Assembly is approaching its spring break, so we are hoping once lawmakers are back that we will be at the top of the docket.”

Hawkins says this issue is a top priority for their members. “We’re certainly not going to give up. One prime example, we have members who are committed to being in the Capitol one day a week every week during session to talk about our number one priority, and that’s improving access to affordable health care coverage in Missouri.

Hawkins says Missouri lawmakers will have to choose if they’re on the side of real people with a real need or on the side of big money.

Audio: Missouri’s Garrett Hawkins updates their progress In the Legislature on Farm Bureau health coverage with Brownfield’s Carah Hart

In Nebraska, Legislative Bill 1313 was a priority bill for Senator Robert Dover and is now being prepared for a final reading.  Bruce Rieker with Nebraska Farm Bureau tells Brownfield Dover’s bill has strong bipartisan support. “Out of 49 State Senators, he has 44 of the Senators signed on as co-sponsors of our bill, so I think we’re in good shape, but we are not counting any chickens until they are hatched.” Reiker says he’s confident Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. “He’s an ag producer himself’, pork producer, sympathetic to some of the needs.”

Reiker says Nebraska Farm Bureau has already started preparing to offer health care coverage yet this year if the state allows it. “What I’ve heard so far is that they are setting a goal, or have a goal to have this ready to go by the time open enrollment rolls around this fall.”

Audio: Bruce Reiker from Nebraska Farm Bureau discusses progress in the Legislature on their health care coverage bill with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

Jason Mugnaini with Wisconsin Farm Bureau tells Brownfield their efforts did not succeed in this legislative session, so Assembly Bill 860 and Senate Bill 811 are dead for now. “There was a lot going on in this legislative session with (electoral) maps, and this was a big proposal and it came later in the session because we wanted to make sure we got it right, and I think it was just too much, too late.” Mugnaini tells Brownfield before reintroducing the bill next session, Farm Bureau will work with legislators to codify some common healthcare coverage practices. “Thinks like ensuring that we cover people up to the age of 26, making sure that there’s no post-claim insurance changes, just little things that we already do that we’re willing to put in state statute to ensure that there’s continuity over the long term with Farm Bureau health plans.”

Audio: Jason Mugnaini with Wisconsin Farm Bureau gives an update on health coverage legislation to Brownfield’s Larry Lee

States must have either statutory authority or a waiver from existing insurance law before a Farm Bureau can offer health care coverage.

Leaders from Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin all say if they’re unsuccessful this time, they will push for support in the next legislative session.

The Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare was enacted fourteen years ago today. Many rural regions have limited plan choices, few medical providers, and high costs.

Update as of March 28th: The Missouri House approved a bill that would authorize Farm Bureau to offer health care coverage, but it needs to pass the State Senate. Nebraska’s lawmakers passed their bill March 28th, and it awaits the signature of farmer and Governor Jim Pillen, who is expected to sign it soon.

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