The Nebraska Farm Bureau’s new Association Health Plan (AHP) was driven by the need to serve Nebraska farm and ranch families struggling to find affordable health insurance in the wake of changes in the insurance industry resulting from passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) nearly a decade ago. In providing invited testimony before a full contingency of the House Ways and Means Committee, Nebraska Farm Bureau Chief Administrator Rob Robertson testified that the organization’s first-of-its-kind AHP was borne out of necessity to help those in need.
“Escalating health care and health insurance costs were among the top concerns registered by farmers and ranchers who attended a series of listening sessions held across our state in the summer of 2018. Whether it was reports of health care premiums becoming the first or second highest living expense, stories of spouses having to find off-farm work to secure employer provided health insurance, or families (young and old) dropping health care insurance all together, we heard directly from those struggling with how to deal with increasing health insurance costs,” said Robertson.
Robertson’s testimony was provided as part the Committee’s hearing on “Protecting Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions.” The Nebraska Farm Bureau AHP is both ACA compliant and covers pre-existing conditions.
“In creating our AHP, we believed it was imperative to cover pre-existing conditions. We wanted to offer great coverage to our farmers and ranchers that was reasonably priced. Allowing farmers and ranchers to pool together to form a large health insurance group through the AHP was the best way we could offer this product at a discounted rate from the high costs of premiums in the individual market. Without the ability to form a bona fide large employer group, farm and ranch members would be stuck with the high costs and limited options in the individual health insurance market, if they could afford them at all,” said Robertson.
In testimony, Robertson provided a real-life example of how the AHP is helping Nebraska Farm Bureau members.
“We had a husband and wife who farm together in Southeast Nebraska sign-up for our AHP. They are self-employed and had seen the cost of their health insurance premiums continue to rise, especially over the last two years. They were going to have to spend more than $26,000 for their health plan in 2019. By enrolling in our AHP and being part of a larger group health plan, they were able to get the same coverage and pay just under $19,000,” said Robertson.
Outside of simply saving money on premiums, Robertson pointed out numerous examples of enrollees who previously went without health insurance, who have now entered the health insurance marketplace because of the more affordable plans offered under the Nebraska Farm Bureau AHP.
“Our organization’s goal in developing the AHP was to help offer a more affordable health insurance option that provided quality coverage, including coverage for pre-existing conditions for our member families. With only one year under our belt and with just under 700 enrollees, we believe we have done that, and are looking forward to offering similar coverage again in future years,” Robertson told the Committee.
Information provided by the Nebraska Farm Bureau.