Agriculture is in a period of tight economic times, leaving families across Kansas struggling to make cash flow and cope with uncertainty.  However, despite all the farm-related trouble, Kansas Farm Bureau consistently hears one message louder than others from our members: the stratospheric rise in health insurance costs is unsustainable.  That is why Kansas Farm Bureau supports Senate Bill 32, authorizing the Kansas Farm Bureau Member Healthcare Benefit Plan.  

From 2010 to 2018, Affordable Care Act premiums have increased 176 percent for individual coverage and 216 percent for family coverage.  Deductibles have also increased in that same time, some to absurd levels.  Most Kansans – 53 percent – receive their health insurance through their employer, which can negotiate with insurers.  Another 31 percent receive their health insurance through some form of government program.  8 percent are uninsured and another 8 percent purchase their health insurance on their own – particularly small businesses and here in Kansas, farmers.  

For those 8 percent who do not qualify for federal subsidies but must buy their insurance on the marketplace with no larger entity to provide any leverage, these increases in costs have been particularly stark.  Adding insult to injury, big insurers often place these self-insurers into the highest of the high risk pools – not because they are the least healthy or the most risky, but because without a larger advocate for the group of self-insurers, there is no one to argue on their behalf.  

Meeting the needs of more than 30,000 farmer and rancher members has taken many different paths over our 100 years of service in Kansas.  Today, addressing the unsustainable cost of health coverage to ensure access to affordable care is critical to the future of agriculture and rural Kansas.  

Kansas Farm Bureau has looked at options that have worked in other states to model Senate Bill 32, which allows for a competitive and innovative option for our members who do not qualify for ACA subsidies and lack options for affordable coverage.  These plans are designed for our members who are buying their own coverage or are not insured.  

The health insurance industry, which has just posted record earnings in 2018 despite raising premiums yet again, is making typical “sky is falling” arguments against our healthcare benefit.  “This isn’t real insurance.”  “This undermines the system.”  “This is bad for preexisting conditions.”  Our response is simple: in states where these plans exist, the overall system has not crumbled.  We acknowledge that these plans aren’t for everyone, and for families that want full coverage the marketplace remains for them.  But there are many Kansas farmers that want to provide health care for their families that simply cannot afford even the most basic plans in a broken “marketplace” stacked against them.  They are smart.  They have done their homework, and know what they are purchasing.  They deserve options.     

Is Senate Bill 32 actual health insurance?  No.  Does it cover absolutely everything?  No.  Is it perfect?  No.  In a perfect world, our self-employed farmers would have an array of affordable health insurance choices, allowing them to choose the product that is best for them.  But right now, all the hallmarks of a functioning market: affordability, choice, and leverage on the part of the consumer – are missing for the hard working Kansans who are left behind by the ACA.  Those families need someone to provide them an option so that they can have the health care they need but also keep their farms afloat during these difficult times.  Kansas Farm Bureau will not sit by and watch these families struggle.  

More than 100 years ago farmers and ranchers across our great state came together with the belief that together their voices could accomplish more than they could alone. Since that time Kansas Farm Bureau has existed to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.  With your help, Senate Bill 32 can give Kansans one more option to live their lives, return to their rural communities, raise their children, grow our economy and build a bright future for our state.  

 

- Rich Felts President KFB