Legislation Provides an Option for Iowans Hobbled by Unaffordable Health Insurance Premiums
According to recent reports from the Iowa Insurance Division, more than 20,000 Iowans could not afford to keep their health care coverage in 2018 because they don’t qualify for Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies. Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), Iowa’s largest grassroots farm organization, is pleased Iowa lawmakers moved with bi-partisan support and Governor Reynolds signed the measure, bringing a new option for many Iowans caught up in a desperate health care coverage spiral.
“According to our annual membership survey, the cost of health care is the number one concern facing our members,” says IFBF President Craig Hill. “That’s why more than 1,500 IFBF members answered the call for action and urged Iowa lawmakers to pass SF2349. This legislation came together because our organization exists to serve its members. Although it isn’t meant to be a solution for all, we are pleased that lawmakers and the Governor agree it is an option for thousands who need an affordable health plan that works until Congress passes a permanent solution to the ACA-inspired health care coverage crisis.”
Senate Bill 2349 calls on established Iowa organizations, IFBF and Wellmark, to partner and develop an affordable health care option for Iowans. To be eligible for health care plan coverage offered in SF2349, Iowans would need to be IFBF members. Farm Bureau, a century-strong organization with offices and membership in every county in Iowa, has provided individual health insurance to Iowans in partnership with Wellmark since 1969, prior to the implementation of the ACA; this legislation continues that decades-long partnership. This legislation will not diminish the impact of the ACA on people it helps—they will continue to have their subsidized coverage through the ACA. Instead, SF2349 provides an opportunity to create coverage for Iowans who don’t qualify for the ACA subsidy or have been forced out of the market by exorbitant premiums. The measure comes at a critical time as Iowa farmers face a fourth year of high production costs and low market prices for their commodities. However, IFBF leaders say SF2349 can bring relief to Iowans well beyond the farm gate.
“We’ve been hearing from our members about the financial burden of getting health care coverage as they took on a second or third job to pay for premiums that inexplicably climbed 300 percent. Many more had to forgo coverage all together because they didn’t qualify for ACA subsidies. That’s just not workable,” says Hill.
Kenneth, a Grundy County Farm Bureau member, agrees the situation is dire. “My oldest daughter just went off our plan two years ago or my premiums would be well over $2,500. Yet, we pay more for health care than housing and food combined! This is unsustainable!”
“I don’t mind paying more than my share to help stabilize the marketplace, but there is no reason that a healthy 32-year-old should be paying more for health insurance than her mortgage. Between student loans, a mortgage and a fledgling farm business, these rates do not fit into my budget,” says Rose, an Iowa County Farm Bureau member.
“We’ve heard from thousands of members who share similar stories, so we’re pleased lawmakers and the Governor passed this critical measure with expedience,” says Hill. “The signing of this legislation provides the path for us to move forward with Wellmark and begin to develop the plans.”
IFBF anticipates benefits possibly being available by January 2019 with enrollment applications to be opened for members in the fall of this year.