NEFB offering large group Association Health Plan for farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses | TheFencePost.com

NEFB offering large group Association Health Plan for farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses

Nebraska Farm Bureau is trying to ease the financial stress on producer families already facing low commodity prices, an expiring farm bill, and a trade war that is especially affecting the state's corn and soybean growers. The group recently announced they will offer the opportunity to join NEFB's new large group Association Health Plan to members, many of whom are self-employed farmers and ranchers, and are faced with crippling insurance premiums.

Tim Hruby of Hemingford, Neb., serves on the Nebraska Farm Bureau Employee Insurance Consortium for the Northwest District, the group that was created to sponsor and manage the Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan and to help comply with state and federal laws for large group Association Health Plans. The consortium partnered with Medica to provide the new health insurance option, which is a way to lower health insurance premiums by grouping farmers, ranchers, and certain agribusinesses so they can be a larger, more risk-stabilizing pool.

Hruby said his family is one of the many in Nebraska affected by health insurance costs. He farms and also operates a small business. His wife has a job in town that he said provides benefits. Without her job, he said the family would struggle so she continues to work for benefits.

When the committee first began seeking an insurance company to work with, the solution seemed an obvious one with so many producer members struggling to afford coverage. The plan may even allow some producers who have employees to offer health insurance benefits whereas it was previously cost prohibitive. According to NEFB President Steve Nelson, nearly 400 farmers and ranchers took part in the group's listening sessions, revealing some Nebraska farm and ranch families are facing $25,000 to $40,000 per year in health insurance premiums alone. Nelson said the affordability of health care, health insurance, and access to both are among the highest issues on the list of concerns for producers.

“I don’t think there has been a group of individuals hurt more by the high cost of health insurance than farm and ranch families.”

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"I don't think there has been a group of individuals hurt more by the high cost of health insurance than farm and ranch families," Nelson said in a press release. "By establishing this new AHP for our qualified members, we know it will help cut costs associated with health insurance premiums."

Nelson said the financial stress on producers is high, emotional, and impacts producers' ability to stay in the business of agricultural production. This emotional and financial toll is one consortium president and longtime NEFB member Tom Schwarz, Bertrand, Neb., recognizes. Schwarz said his operation is one that has been unable to offer healthcare insurance to employees due to the cost, causing him to lose some employees. He is hopeful the AHP will afford him the ability to better recruit and retain employees.

Members of Nebraska Farm Bureau may sign up during the Oct. 1 to Dec. 1 open enrollment period. ❖

— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at rgabel@thefencepost.com or (970) 392-4410.