BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DES MOINES – Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill on Monday that creates affordable health plan options for Iowans who can’t afford to buy health insurance.
Senate File 2349 allows health plans created by associations of employers or sponsored by certain agricultural organizations. In her Condition of the State address in January, the governor called for lawmakers to work together on a bill to give Iowa farmers, small business owners and their employees access to affordable health care.
Before the Affordable Care Act took effect, Iowa had a healthy individual insurance market. There were nine carriers, with good participation and reasonable premiums. Today, the state’s market is in collapse. Premiums went up 57 percent last year, forcing many Iowans to choose between going broke or going without insurance. As a result, 26,000 Iowans left the insurance market.
The new law allows Farm Bureau to build a self-funded health benefit arrangement that will work for Iowans forced from the individual market. It also gives small employers the ability to band together to create affordable health care options for their employees.
“The bill allows Farm Bureau to offer a self-funded health benefit plan to Iowans with a Farm Bureau membership,” said Fort Madison Farm Bureau agent Larry Holtkamp. Farm Bureau will design, underwrite and set the premium rates. Wellmark will administer the services. Members will have access to health care through the Wellmark HMO network. The goal is to have the plan available for a January 1, 2019 effective date.”
“We recognize there are a lot of questions that you will very likely have. The signing of the bill this morning is simply the first step in a lengthy process to design plans and bring these plans to the market. As soon as we can provide additional information on these plans, we will do so. Again, these plans will not be available until 1/1/2019.”
Reynolds said the bill will open up health insurance to thousands more Iowans.
“Thank you to Farm Bureau for their work and willingness to provide relief to Iowans who can no longer afford their health insurance,” Gov. Reynolds said. “Thank you also to Iowa Insurance Division Commissioner Doug Ommen for his leadership on this issue. Because of this bill, thousands of Iowans will now have affordable health care coverage.”
The bill passed the Iowa House on March 21, 69-30 and the Iowa Senate on March 27, 37-11.