County, state Farm Bureau leaders search for health care solutions

Summit begins process of examining existing and future affordable health care options for Illinois farmers.

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Stockton (Jo Daviess County) farmer and IFB Health Care Working Group member Greg Thoren, left, talks with Lisa Carlson, a representative of Lockton Companies, about challenges he and other Illinois farmers face finding affordable health care insurance. (Photos by Mike Orso)

By Mike Orso

State health care exchanges, high-deductible health plans, faith-based health sharing plans – members of an Illinois Farm Bureau working group on health care and other guests started to sort out affordable options at a Health Care Summit held Tuesday in Bloomington.

“This is a big issue,” said IFB Vice President Brian Duncan to open the summit. “We all know why we are here. The cost of health insurance and health care is a pocketbook issue for our members.”

The organization created the working group and summit as ways to address a resolution approved late last year by farmer-delegates. They requested the state organization seek solutions by identifying affordable health care insurance options.

Close to 100 county and state Farm Bureau leaders attended the organization’s Health Care Summit on Tuesday in Bloomington. IFB’s Health Care Working Group plans to meet again on July 25.
Close to 100 county and state Farm Bureau leaders attended the organization’s Health Care Summit on Tuesday in Bloomington. IFB’s Health Care Working Group plans to meet again on July 25.

Lisa Carlson, an attorney with the Chicago office of Lockton Companies, which bills itself as the “world’s largest privately held insurance brokerage firm,” provided an overview of the complex health insurance sector. She noted Tennessee Farm Bureau worked with its state legislature to offer farmer-members health insurance that does not have to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). She said the ACA helped some farmers by offering insurance despite pre-existing conditions but squeezed others by driving up deductible and policy costs.

“It’s both a beast and a benefit,” said Carlson about the ACA, approved during President Barack Obama’s presidency and dubbed “Obamacare” by some. “Hopefully, the government will start to focus a little bit more on things like offering association health plans and other options that would help create a little bit less risk.”

Risk proved to be a big reason one of IFB’s affiliated companies, COUNTRY Financial, exited the medical expense health insurance market approximately 15 years ago. COUNTRY officials provided background on its history and current health insurance services for IFB members offered through COUNTRY Financial Brokerage. Other summit participants included an official from the National Association of Independent Business, who discussed association health plans, and representatives of Samaritan Ministries, who discussed health-sharing programs.

“The work has just begun,” noted Duncan, who leads the organization’s 19-member Health Care Working Group. It includes representatives from each IFB district and Young Leader Committee. Duncan said the group will meet again in July.

Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.

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