Spurred by members’ deep concerns about rising health care prices, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation in 2018 launched the Farm Bureau Health Plan, helping farmers and others in the state cut their premium costs by as much as 50%.
IFBF worked with Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, a longtime partner of the group’s, to create a health benefit “that would not be subject to Affordable Care Act requirements, would be less expensive than ACA plans and would not cost taxpayers a dime,” according to IFBF’s Executive Director Joe Johnson.
“We wanted to provide our members with another option. We knew from the start the plan wouldn’t be for everyone, but we thought it would be an option for those Iowans who do not qualify for ACA subsidies,” Johnson explained.
The Farm Bureau Health Plan is available to Iowa Farm Bureau members living in the state who are not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or an employer group health plan. Participants in the Farm Bureau Health Plan have three options: two traditional plans with copays, coinsurance and deductibles and a high-deductible plan that offers members the opportunity to fund a health savings account.
All three plans provide free preventative care, affordable copays for primary care physicians and specialists, ER coverage, prescription drug coverage at 65,000 pharmacies and coverage for all Iowa hospitals and 97% of Iowa physicians.
The plans are similar to ACA-compliant plans available in Iowa except that applicants must pass underwriting to qualify for enrollment and they have a $3 million lifetime benefit maximum per covered individual. Also, because the plans are underwritten, they are available for purchase throughout the year, rather than only during limited enrollment periods.
IFB worked with the state Legislature to pass legislation allowing the organization to provide an underwritten health benefit plan to its members. The measure was signed into law by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in April 2018.
“This was a very heavy lift. The plan was not considered to be ‘insurance,’ so it would not be subject to Affordable Care Act regulations,” Johnson explained, emphasizing that IFBF’s members were very active in calling on lawmakers to approve the bill, which they did by a considerable margin.
Farm Bureau Health Plan garnered Iowa Farm Bureau a 2019 New Horizon Award from the American Farm Bureau Federation. The award, which honors state Farm Bureaus with the most innovative new programs, is presented annually at the AFBF Annual Convention.