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Nebraska Farm Bureau supported bill authorizing health benefits plan signed by Gov. Pillen

Gov. Jim Pillen signed a bill that would allow for a non-profit organization to provide a health plan option for its members and to all small business owners. Nebraska Farm Bureau is working to provide a health plan for farmers, ranchers and small business owners, under that bill, that offers a more affordable option than the Affordable Care Act.

“Providing affordable healthcare to our members is a policy priority for Nebraska Farm Bureau. Our organization worked with Norfolk Sen. Robert Dover, to sponsor LB 1313, a bill that would make it easier for farmers and ranchers and other small businesses to provide another health care option to their families and employees,” Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue said.

Under LB1313, participants need to be a member of an agricultural nonprofit organization offering a health benefits plan. The health benefit plans would offer services typically offered under traditional health insurance plans, including office visits, hospitalization, preventive care, emergency room services and maternity care. Mental health and substance abuse care would also be covered.

“LB1313 is a bill that allows health benefit plans that are sponsored by certain nonprofit agricultural organizations, such as Nebraska Farm Bureau. It would provide benefits under a self-funded arrangement administered by a licensed third-party administrator. There is significant need for more affordable health plans that will meet the needs of our members and, potentially, members who are not eligible for the federal health insurance subsidies,” McHargue said.

Nebraska Farm Bureau has conducted several survey’s regarding the rising cost of health insurance. Consistent with previous surveys, a 2023 survey indicated that 81% of farm and ranch members said that the cost of health insurance was one of their main concerns. Because Affordable Care Act premiums often are unaffordable, the survey indicated they either do not purchase health insurance or they rely on a spouse who works for an employer that offers those benefits.

“The current health care insurance market discriminates against self-employed individuals and small business owners because they are not eligible for the discounted rates available under employer-sponsored plans,” said Dawn Kucera a Madison County farmer during an Agriculture Committee testimony for LB1313 in February.

Kucera and her husband Regan operate a farm and agronomy business near Madison and told the senators that they pay nearly $16,000 per year for their subsidized ACA plan and $20,000 to $40,000 annually in deductibles and copays. Premiums and out-of-pocket costs for an unsubsidized ACA family plan are even higher, she said.

“These high health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs for health care make a significant dent in our bottom line and even put our farm and agronomy business on very thin ice during years of drought or low commodity prices,” Kucera said.

She said the plans offered under LB1313, which would be priced using preexisting conditions and individual medical underwriting, would cost on average 40% to 60% less than unsubsidized plans offered under the ACA.

“This bill is a family-friendly health care alternative with the goal being to provide a high-quality, affordable health care option for those who want it. We thank state senators and the governor for recognizing the important impact this legislation has on farm and ranch families and small businesses,” McHargue said.

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