It’s been a one-two punch for farm families—access to good rural healthcare is vanishing, as more hospitals and clinics close and the cost of health insurance increases. This huge farmer concern is causing some businesses to offer solutions.
A new partnership between Land O’Lakes and insurance marketplace Gravie, is providing a huge benefit to Steven Landwehr. He milks 6,500 cows on four dairies and farms 3,500 acres in Minnesota. The program will provide his family, business partners and 120 employees access to affordable healthcare next year.
The program, which is in its second year, provides producers of participating Land O’Lakes co-ops a better healthcare option than they could get through the state exchange.
“We found in our research that access to healthcare in rural areas
tends to be, not surprisingly, significantly worse than it is in large metropolitan areas,” says Abir Sen, CEO of Gravie. “The cost of insurance tends to be higher, the networks tend to be narrower and oftentimes, we end up with people who have to travel miles to get to a hospital system that is covered.”
New Options. Recent changes in Minnesota legislation allows agricultural cooperatives to form their own insurance plan, Sen says.
“This health plan is a custom-built marketplace that’s designed just for farmers and their families to come and shop for insurance,” Sen says. “We were able to create health insurance products that have a broader network.”
Producers save 15% to 20% on their premiums, Sen says. Landwehr was one of those producers. His family is saving $700 per month with a significantly lower deductible after switching from a private plan through Blue Cross of Minnesota to the Gravie plan.
Members of participating Land O’Lakes co-ops like Landwehr are required by law to offer their employees insurance to remain in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. He was thrilled to learn he, and other participating farmers, can offer the same Gravie plan to their employees in 2019.
“I want to offer the best things I can for my employees,” Landwehr notes. “It’s going to be a game changer for us.”
Currently, the Land O’Lakes Cooperative Farmer Member Health Plan is only available to eligible members of participating Land O’Lakes co-ops and their employees in Minnesota and Nebraska, and
enrollment is open. The companies plan to expand the program to more states in the future.
“We have talked to state regulators, as well as co-ops in other states, where we will take what we’ve done in Minnesota and Nebraska and replicate it,” Sen says.
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