The Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) today unveiled its new large-group Association Health Plan (AHP), which aims to provide health insurance coverage to farmers, rancher and people engaged in agribusiness. The AHP allows farm and ranch families to avoid the higher cost of premiums in the individual health insurance market.
“Farm members have always wanted to provide their own health care and provide for the care of their families. And that has become more and more difficult,” NEFB President Steve Nelson said in a press conference. “Many families have had to have one spouse or the other go to work – find a different job – so they either can afford to pay for health insurance or so they can get health insurance through their found employment.”
Nearly 400 farmers and ranchers who took part in NEFB’s listening sessions across the state this summer said the affordability of health care, health insurance, and access to both, were among their greatest concerns. Long-time NEFB member Tom Schwarz started the ball rolling about two years ago, when he voiced his concerns to the bureau.
“As far as my own farm operation, we have literally lost employees because I could not offer them health insurance benefits because of their high costs. We think the opportunities created by this new Association Health Plan will give farmers and ranchers like me some opportunities to lower health insurance costs and recruit and retain employees," Schwarz said.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan saves farmers and ranchers money by “grouping farmers, ranchers, and certain agribusinesses so they can be in a larger, more risk-stabilizing pool,” Nelson said. NEFB estimates it will lower health insurance premiums for farmer and rancher members on average by 25 percent and by 5 percent for agribusiness.
To create the Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan, NEFB put together a separate entity reflecting a sub-set of its membership called the NEFB Employer Insurance Consortium. Schwarz is to be president of the Consortium, organized as a non-profit corporation separate from NEFB.
"I certainly look forward to helping NEFB and the Consortium develop these new and more affordable health insurance products,” Schwarz said.
NEFB partnered with health insurance carrier Medica to form the AHP. Medica has developed coverage options, premiums and other provisions for the Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan. The carrier is working with Farm Bureau agents to sell the health care products. The agents will be available to help resolve benefit questions or issues and provide support to the plan.
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“We are delighted to bring another health coverage option to the farmers and ranchers in Nebraska because it gives them a greater say in their health plan choices moving forward,” said Geoff Bartsh, Medica vice president of individual and family business. “Nebraskans can be confident that the Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan will meet their needs.”
Three plan options will be available, including a health savings account. To qualify, farmers and ranchers must be a member in good standing with NEFB. The member must be an employer or individual sole proprietor who obtains at least 50 percent of his or her income from production agriculture. Qualifying NEFB members can sign up for this more affordable health coverage during an open enrollment period that runs from Oct. 1 to Dec. 1. Health coverage will begin on Jan. 1, 2019. Products will be compliant with the federal Affordable Care Act and available to all eligible NEFB members regardless of health status.
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