AHP not an option, but IFB continues to address health cost concerns

Chris Magnuson, Illinois Farm Bureau executive director of news and communications, shares IFBs Health Care Working Group recommendations with Farm Bureau members. (Photo by Ali Seys)

Chris Magnuson, Illinois Farm Bureau executive director of news and communications, shares IFB's Health Care Working Group recommendations with Farm Bureau members. (Photo by Ali Seys)

By Ali Seys

Illinois Farm Bureau continues to keep one goal in mind for members – help them build for the future. That goal applies to a growing concern on farmers’ minds – the cost of health insurance.

Chris Magnuson, IFB executive director of news and communications, explained how IFB’s Health Care Working Group met with multiple providers to look into an Association Health Plan (AHP) with hopes of lowering the cost of health care for Farm Bureau members.

“The idea of the association health plan is qualifying as a large group,” said Magnuson, during a session at the recent IFB Farm Income and Innovations Conference. “If a sufficient number of members were in the plan, we could be rated as a group which would be a lower rate than individuals.”

Unfortunately, none of the three major health care providers contacted were able to work with IFB on any savings through AHPs.

“It just seems to be the biggest area of expense growth in our operation and somewhat unpredictable on where it’s going,” said Coles County farmer Pat Harrington.

Without an AHP, Harrington said many farm families must look for insurance options elsewhere. “They’re going to continue to have to have a spouse work off the farm for insurance even though that may not be the best decision for the family,” he added.

The Health Care Working Group also made recommendations addressing overall wellness, including mental health awareness, and potential ways to increase education and reduce costs without an AHP.

“One of the recommendations is to provide more information to our members on health care,” added Magnuson. “We’ve really stepped up – in FarmWeek, guests we interview on the RFD Radio Network, etc. – we’re trying to provide more information.”

To better serve its members, IFB approved increasing funding to support nurse practitioner scholarships through the Rural Illinois Medical Student Assistance Program (RIMSAP). The IFB Board will also consider financial support for recruitment of health care professionals into rural areas through programs like the Rural Medical Education Program (RMED).

Sara Sturgeon, COUNTRY Financial Life/Health Brokerage lead, said there are many health care plan options available to members now. Additionally, people might qualify for a subsidy under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without even realizing. For example, a family of four with an income of $103,000 or less could qualify. To find out if you qualify for a subsidy, visit healthcare.gov.

Members may also use the COUNTRY Green Road tool. It’s an interactive map on COUNTRY’s website that will help members navigate a path to health care options.

After answering a series of questions, “it will tell you ‘yes, you may qualify for a subsidy,’ ‘contact your COUNTRY rep,’ or even just take you to that representative’s homepage,” said Sturgeon. “That is the best step to contact a COUNTRY Financial rep. They, then in turn, contact us, and from there we can decide the health insurance best for you.”

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