Farm group examining options to rein in health care costs

IFB vice president hopes upcoming summit yields a strategy for tackling the major issue.

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Illinois Farm Bureau Vice President Brian Duncan leads an effort to determine what the organization can do to help members find affordable health care. Duncan leads a working group made up of representatives of IFB’s 18 districts as well as the Young Leader Committee. (Photo by Jeff Brown)

By Jeff Brown

There’s an elephant in the room for many Illinois farmers grappling with how to make their balance sheets work during tough economic times: health insurance.

Rising medical costs have become a major obstacle for farmer profitability, and farmer-delegates to the Illinois Farm Bureau Annual Meeting last December committed the organization to identifying affordable options. The group will host a Health Care Summit, March 13 in Bloomington to hear from experts on the topic about what’s available and what could work in Illinois.

But Ogle County farmer Brian Duncan, who heads an IFB working group on the topic, says the issue is too big to expect to find answers on the spot.

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” Duncan said during an interview with the RFD Radio Network®. “This is an elephant, and we’re going to keep trying to divide it down into manageable bites.”

Instead, Duncan hopes the meeting creates engagement and encourages stakeholders to contribute to the large effort.

Topics of discussion at the summit are likely to include:

- COUNTRY Financial’s historic involvement with health insurance.

- What other state Farm Bureaus are doing to provide health insurance options for their members.

- The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and health insurance options for associations under the ACA.

“The summit we see as laying the groundwork, beginning the conversation,” said Duncan, IFB’s vice president. It will “get the ball rolling and get people thinking about this issue.”

Related: Click here to see what IFB voting delegates approved last December related to examining the health care issue.

All IFB members are invited to attend. Space is limited and members can register at this link. If you’re unable to attend in person, the event will be streamed live online. Contact your county Farm Bureau for more information.

Duncan said the importance of the issue was evident when he and IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. visited with county Farm Bureau presidents earlier this year.

“Concern on health care costs was probably issue No. 1 or 1A,” he said. “It’s on everybody’s minds, especially as premiums come due and especially in tough financial times.”

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