Farmers across Indiana can start applying for new specialized health plans. The Indiana Farm Bureau (INFB) rolled out the health care option to its members Thursday aiming to give farmers a more flexible option and reduce medical costs that Hoosier farmers have voiced concerns over.
Legislation passed earlier this year allows the organization to create and offer health plans to its members, including sole proprietors. The plans are listed at a lower cost than those on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace, saving an individual with non-subsidized insurance between 30 percent and 50 percent.
But the plans do not have to follow ACA rules, meaning not everyone who applies is guaranteed approval.
INFB’s executive director of administration Megan Ritter said of the roughly 270,000 members, 5-9 percent are currently uninsured. According to Ritter, those people and others with different health care coverage might be interested in the new health plans.
“We feel confident in looking at the marketplace, the need in the marketplace, the need in Indiana, and what we are going to be able to offer with these innovative, more affordable plans. And that it's going to be a product that is both needed in the marketplace and is going to be in high demand,” said Ritter.
Row crop farmer Mindy Orschell said for years medical expenses have put her family in a tough financial situation. She believes the health plans will help not only her husband with diabetes, but also help her be able to make her health a priority.
“For the past 10 years that's kind of been on the back burner because it just hasn't been affordable; it hasn't been an option," Orschell said. "So you know those six months dental cleanings, those yearly doctor checkups, the vision screenings, haven't been, you know, a reality for us.”
Orshell said she hopes this will also allow her children to come back and work on the family farm.
UnitedHealthcare network will be the provider for the health plans due to having the best coverage for members all over the state, especially in rural areas. Ritter said telehealth will also be included in the plans as a resource for those in remote parts of Indiana.
The new health plans will go into effect at the beginning of next year.
Other states with farm bureau-run health plans already operating or in the works include Tennessee and Kansas.