As the cost of health care increases, farmers and ranchers are finding it difficult to maintain their benefits. On Oct. 1, 2019, the Kansas Farm Bureau began offering a special health care plan to its members.


Modeled after the Tennessee Farm Bureau’s health care plan, KFB is offering an alternative health care benefit, similar to insurance. Since its inception, more than 5,000 members have joined the plan.


"We have seen everything," said Erin Petersilie, Kansas Farm Bureau health plans manager. "There is no good marker of average."


Benefits


Like health insurance, this health benefit offers a variety of plans with several deductibles, dependent upon the consumer’s needs. All the plans pay benefits for accidents and illnesses, including cancer and heart treatment.


Similar to obtaining private life insurance, the prospective customer must go through underwriting – have lab work done and disclose pre-existing conditions from the past seven years.


Since signing up for the plan, Wrenn and Arturo Pacheco, who are ranchers in Wabaunsee County, have seen a dramatic decrease in their health care costs and just as dramatic an increase in benefits.


"Our previous insurance was about $1,000 a month and it was sub-par," Wrenn Pacheco said. "This (plan) is $600 a month and it is far better insurance."


The Pachecos have two young children and said they are excited about the lower cost or no cost for prescriptions.


"It is amazing," Wrenn Pacheco said.


Todd Clover, who is a farm bureau agent in Beloit and joined the plan last fall, said he saves more than $700 per month with this plan – having the same deductible. He said the premiums for all his clients who qualify are also lower.


"The average saving is 40 to 50 percent," Petersilie said. "It can be as high as 60 percent."


Issues


Before going through underwriting, Clover lost weight and worked hard to decrease both his cholesterol and blood pressure.


"We just don’t accept everybody," Clover said. "I worked hard to get myself in shape."


Because of the lower premiums, clients with pre-existing ailments are unable to participate in the plan. Certain pre-existing conditions can be covered under the plan, but this might result in a premium increase. If there are no pre-existing conditions, the consumer is rated based upon their age, use of tobacco and other parameters. Unless the client changes their plan, they will not have to go through underwriting again.


Petersilie said some of the pre-existing conditions include diabetes, cancer and heart conditions. The person’s BMI ratio also comes into play.


"There is a nine-month wait before we cover maternity," Petersilie said.


But if someone has a heart attack or becomes stricken with cancer after they sign up, they will be treated and their premium will not increase. And, Petersilie said, they will not be dropped from the plan. The only way premiums will increase, according to Petersilie, is by a standard across-the-board increase for all customers, if the person chooses a different coverage plan for the following term or if they move into a different age category.


The cost of preventative care is another drawback. Although preventative care is covered, customers must pay a co-pay for each visit.


Petersilie wants people to analyze and compare their plan with what KFB offers and not drop their current plan until they know for sure they are covered with KFB.


To find out more about this health care plan, visit https://www.kfbhealthplans.com/ or call 785-587-6000.