It’s been a one-two punch for farm families to get access to rural healthcare as more rural hospitals and clinic close and the cost of health insurance continues to be a burden. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation decided to do something about it and they recently launched a new health insurance option for their members.
“I can't think of any other sector than agriculture, that is so negatively impacted by the high costs of health insurance,” Rob Robertson, chief administrator of the Nebraska Farm Bureau told Clinton Griffiths on AgriTalk. “We're hearing stories from our members of $20,000 to $30,000-a-year premiums, and that almost becomes their highest cost item on that farm.”
The first step for the Nebraska Farm Bureau was identifying the problem and understanding the need. To do that, the group held regional meetings to learn more about the specific struggles members were facing.
“We literally had families and spouses get up with tears in their eyes talking about how son couldn't come back or how they have to work in town and that hurts the father because he has to do everything on the farm alone,” Robertson said referring to their regional meetings. “It's just a very emotional decision point for family farms and has a real negative impact on some of the future out there.”
Developing the Association Health plan within Nebraska Farm Bureau took about two years. But the program is now open for enrollment through December 1.
“It's the concept of an association health plan” Robertson explained. “It's a large group plan, basically, as opposed to a small individual unit that you're trying to ensure. So, the idea of having a large group of our members has a less risky, more stable pool where the prices can be lower.”
And it has lowered health insurance costs for their members, according to Robertson. He says some families are seeing savings of more than $7,000.
“On average farmers and ranchers save about 25% on their health insurance premiums this year if they join the Association health plan compared to the normal federal market place exchanges,” Robertson says.