Farmers interested in "barebones" health insurance plans

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LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Iowans buying health insurance plans in the “Obamacare” marketplace might eventually have a cheaper option. The Iowa Senate voted Wednesday night to let the Iowa Farm Bureau sell “barebones” health care coverage.

The Wellmark plans, sold through the Farm Bureau, would revert coverage to the kind of individual policies available before the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Insurers could exclude pre-existing conditions, not cover some procedures and charge older customers a lot more. But policies might also cost a lot less.

For Brian Sejkora, a Linn County farmer, finding affordable health insurance is a constant struggle.

As a farmer, he doesn’t qualify for any kind of group coverage plan. Before Obamacare, family coverage used to take about a third of his wife’s off-farm paycheck.

With no ACA subsidies, Sejkora’s insurance now costs fully half the family’s monthly income.

“If I don’t plan on retiring early or dying, I think I’m in pretty good shape. If I live and want to retire I think I need a different policy,” he said.

Sejkora says he doesn’t know a lot of details about the Wellmark policies the Farm Bureau hopes to sell to 28,000 members statewide.

But he knows if it’s 30 to 40 percent cheaper, as advertised, he’s interested.

Another farmer, Brian Lensch, would also want to check out the new insurance option.

He’s paying about $2,000 a month out of pocket for coverage—more than twice the amount before Obamacare.

His wife even took an off-farm job recently strictly to qualify for health insurance.

“I think it’s an opportunity for a younger farmer. If you’re healthy then you don’t need all those big benefits,” Lensch said.

But opponents say it’s a step back. Senator Rob Hogg (D) Cedar Rapids, was a “no” vote on Wednesday.

“And we’re really concerned people will be buying policies thinking they will cover things and then find out the coverage isn’t there,” Hogg said.

Hogg added another problem is drawing younger, healthier customers away from the insurance marketplace would increase costs for those left in the marketplace.

He expects the Iowa House to approve the legislation next week and the governor to sign it.

He also expects the issue to wind up in court with suits claiming the “skinny” health plans circumvent Affordable Care Act rules.