NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — Indiana Farm Bureau has spent the past year researching how to resolve exorbitant healthcare costs that threaten farmers’ livelihoods and even their lives.
“Basically, we want to offer something that’s innovative, that provides choice and that focuses on owner-operators that don’t have employees,” said Katrina Hall, director of public policy, during a breakout session at the Young Farmers and Ag Professionals Conference in Noblesville.
“We’re getting into a whole new area of health services that we really haven’t focused on that much before. We’re creating a new company that will be the entity that will do that, and it will be an entity of Indiana Farm Bureau.”
About 80% of INFB members are either sole proprietors or operators with no employees, and the association health plans offered by other organizations represent groups of employers and businesses, Hall said.
“The plans that they offer in the statutory framework that they are using wouldn’t work for us,” she explained.
Pending authorization by the Indiana General Assembly, INFB plans to partner with Tennessee Farm Bureau, which has offered a health benefit plan to its members for over 25 years. Iowa Farm Bureau and, just last year, Kansas Farm Bureau have also pursued a similar approach.
“We believe that that using Tennessee Farm Bureau’s backend, which is basically the administrative part, the website part, and their experience will help us get to market sooner,” Hall said.
The goal is to be in the marketplace by the end of the year, she added.
Hall provided answers to questions about INFB’s proposed alternative for more affordable health care for rural families.
Who will benefit from INFB’s health benefit plans?
Members in all 92 counties who do not have access to group insurance plans or work somewhere for health benefits such as farmers, those who work on farms, agribusiness professionals and rural entrepreneurs with fewer than two employees or who do not qualify for significant Affordable Care Act subsidies.
Why not use an existing option?
Through a year of extensive research of the healthcare benefit plans currently available, we have found there isn’t a single option that creates significant savings for the sole proprietor.
Plans like the ones offered through the Indiana Chamber of Commerce benefit small businesses with two or more employees. Since a vast majority of INFB members are sole proprietors, they do not qualify for those types of health plans.
What’s the legislative fix?
For INFB to offer a healthcare option for our members, we need a statutory change. The statutory change will allow INFB to offer a non-insurance, high quality and more affordable health benefit plan to our members.
Why is it called a health benefit plan and not insurance?
Our solution creates a health benefit plan for our members. Since it will not meet all of the requirements under the ACA and not all applicants will receive coverage due to certain preexisting conditions, the solution we are pursuing can’t be called “insurance.” Importantly, the health benefit plan will function just like any other traditional health insurance plan.
Will this plan impact the health coverage marketplace?
INFB partnered with Lewis & Ellis, a nationally respected actuary firm, to analyze the impact on the marketplace. They concluded that our plan would have a minimal impact, accounting for only a 0.1% to 0.2% premium increase for those in the marketplace.
Because our health benefit plans are targeted to address a gap in current offerings, the number of Hoosiers who would be looking into products like these would be somewhat limited.
What would INFB’s health benefit plan cover?
Our health benefit plan will be very robust, allowing members to choose the coverages they need. Our associates will work with our members to ensure their individual needs are met and they understand their coverages.
Through a third-party administrator, we’ll be able to offer plans that feature many essential health benefits — including, but not limited to:
• Office visits.
• Hospitalization and tele-medicine.
• Prescription drug benefits.
• Preventative, routine and wellness services.
• Maternity, newborn and pediatric care.
• Outpatient services.
• Mental health and substance abuse counseling and treatment.
• Emergency room services.
• Dental and vision coverage.
• Rehabilitative services and devices.
• Laboratory services.
What happens if a member gets sick? Will I lose my coverage if I get sick?
Once members are accepted and pay their premiums they will not be denied coverage as long as they continue to be an INFB member. Similar to traditional healthcare plans, premiums may increase as the performance of the pool of a particular plan changes or as the individual ages.
How will INFB create a more affordable healthcare option?
Since each applicant will be individually rated based on their medical history, INFB will be able to offer coverage for significantly less than similar coverage under the ACA where premiums are not subsidized.
Will members be denied coverage?
Our goal is to cover as many members as possible. To create a health benefit plan that is more affordable, some applicants may not qualify for INFB’s plan. In Tennessee, for example, nearly nine out of 10 applicants receive coverage.
Could any Indiana Farm Bureau member take advantage of this health benefit plan?
The health plan we are proposing would become a benefit available to Indiana Farm Bureau members. Defining who is a farmer is a judgment call and could leave out agribusiness professionals and other small businesses that support farmers and rural economies.
Limiting those who could join Farm Bureau or who could buy the proposed healthcare benefit would also limit the size of the pool of lives covered and limit the ability of those in the pool to share risk.
Why not cover everyone?
Our solution will help many of our members, but will not address every individual healt care need. Our members stressed the importance of cost savings throughout this process.
Without cost savings of individual underwriting, we wouldn’t be able to offer something substantially different than what is on the market today. This innovative approach will create substantial savings for many of our members.
What are the advantages to the Indiana Farm Bureau health benefit plan compared to other non-traditional health coverages?
Our health benefit plan will function like any other traditional health benefit plan. Plans will include premiums and deductibles. Most importantly, it is a legally binding contract outlining specific coverages based on individual health conditions at the time of application.
Indiana Farm Bureau is at its core an organization designed to serve our members’ needs. All of our plans will have clearly defined consumer protection provisions.