Working group recommends pursuing association health plan

Illinois Farm Bureau could explore partnerships with other state associations also seeking health care solutions for their members.

By Deana Stroisch

Illinois Farm Bureau’s Health Care Working Group has recommended the organization’s board of directors explore providing health insurance for members through an association health plan (AHP), among other suggestions.

The working group, which has been studying health care options, suggested IFB discuss creating an AHP with potential carriers and survey IFB members to gauge their interest.

The group also suggested exploring potential partnerships with other Illinois-based associations of self-employed people, such as realtors and doctors, that IFB could join with to form an AHP.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order last fall that allows small employers and consumers to band together, as if they were a single, large employer in an AHP, to lower insurance costs and increase access to health insurance. The Department of Labor finalized the changes in June.

The focus on health care stems from a Sense of the Delegate Body Resolution approved at IFB’s Annual Meeting in December. The resolution, introduced by Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kendall and Will counties, called on the IFB Board of Directors to identify affordable health care options for members and provide a report to delegates at this year’s annual meeting.

“This is a super engaged group of people working really hard on something that’s important for the organization,” said IFB Vice President Brian Duncan. “We may be learning more about what we can’t do than what we can do.”

The working group, along with members of the Strength with Advisory Team, also recommended increasing communications to members about health care issues and health insurance options. It also discussed communicating to legislators about the high cost of health insurance for farmers who are not part of an employer health plan and strengthening the organization’s health care policy.

The group further discussed studying several health care options, including a Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement, in which multiple employers join together to share the risk of providing health insurance; and seeking legislation to establish a nonactuarial health care plan for IFB members like Iowa instituted. The group recommended the Health Care Working Group continue to investigate opportunities for IFB to address health care issues facing members.

Recommendations will be presented to directors at their August meeting.

6 facts you should know about association health plans, from the Department of Labor:

1. AHPs, under the Department of Labor's rule, are group health plans that employer groups and associations offer to provide health coverage for employees.

2. For the first time, working owners without other employees (including sole proprietors) and their families will be permitted to join AHPs.

3. An AHP could offer coverage to some or all employers in a state, city, county or a multistate metro area, or it could offer coverage to businesses in a trade or industry group nationwide.

4. AHPs may not charge higher premiums or deny coverage to people because of pre-existing conditions or cancel coverage because an employee becomes ill.

5. AHPs under this rule will not be able to charge employers different rates based on the health status of their employees.

6. Consumer protections and health care anti-discrimination protections apply to large businesses and will also apply to AHPs organized under this rule.