November 29, 2021

Health care No.1 priority for Farm Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS — Rising health care costs are a major concern for Indiana Farm Bureau members, so the organization is focusing on legislation that would provide more affordable options to farm families.

Through research and collaboration with other states, INFB developed a solution to benefit farmers who are sole proprietors.

Sole proprietors do not qualify for group insurance plans — which are meant for farms with two or more employees.

“As we’ve surveyed our members, looked at National Agricultural Statistics Service data and polled, we know that at least 80% of farmers and farm families are sole proprietors,” said Katrina Hall, director of public policy at INFB.

“The current statutory framework doesn’t work for what we need to provide for our members. That’s really the reason why we’re pursuing this legislative solution.”

The benefit plan INFB created would include office visits, prescription drugs, preventative and routine services, dental and vision, pediatric care and more.

The bill has been drafted and is waiting to be assigned to a committee.

Once it’s assigned, it will have a hearing during the General Assembly.

In a survey conducted by INFB, 78% of respondents indicated that the cost of health care is important to the profitability of their business.

Forty-eight percent under age 65 have chosen not to get treatment for a health condition because of the cost.

“We hear so many stories from young families who can’t afford health care — and it’s not just young families,” Hall said. “Especially with the ag economy as it is right now. Premiums can be crippling.

“We’re really sensitive to that, and we hope that, overall, this improves health care and wellness in rural areas by giving people access to health care throughout their lifetime. We’re shocked by how many people we learned have no coverage.”

If legislation passes, members will have to pass a health screening to gain access to the health benefit plan.

Once members are accepted and pay their premiums, they will not be denied coverage as long as they continue to be an INFB member.

While it may not be a solution for every farmer, Hall and other INFB leaders hope the health benefits package would ease the financial burden of health care for many.