Farm Families Study Health Insurance Costs and Options During Open Enrollment

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Policy in America would change for the better if we paid “cash or check only” for the expenses largely beyond our control.

Pay property taxes by check, not escrow. Pay income taxes with a separate check, not payroll deduction. Write a check for health insurance premiums with full awareness of an employer’s contribution, avoiding the “out of sight, out of mind” experience.

The start of November brought the start of open enrollment for 2020 health insurance coverage. Farm families with no other insurance alternatives will take a rainy day from this year’s late harvest to view the few plan choices available. The premiums likely will total in the thousands of dollars per year as in 2019, when a pre-Medicare farming couple paid $23,000 for a $6,000 deductible plan.

See more: A Farmer’s Bitter Pill

Premiums for individual health insurance plans have more than doubled since 2013, the year before the Affordable Care Act took effect, according to both my personal records and those of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These health care costs have strained Illinois farm families, prompting Illinois Farm Bureau to act, evaluating possible health plan alternatives for its farmer members, giving farms like ours another option to consider.

In July, our farm started a small group health insurance plan. The high cost of this plan calculates better than last year’s premiums, and that’s where my spreadsheet could find a small victory. Health insurance expenses have increased so sharply that a small group plan that seemed financially unattainable years ago now looks reasonable.

On a personal note, my biggest financial and spiritual blessing in 2019 came with my enrollment in a health care sharing ministry, a noninsurance entity of Christians who bear one another’s medical burdens. My monthly share calculates to less than half of my previous insurance premium. I can go anywhere I want for care without confining networks. I directly help fellow Christians, and the faith-based sharing in return for a potential medical need appeals to me more than insurance coverage.

See more: Gagging on Health Insurance Premiums Like a Horse Pill

It’s not for everyone, nor every Christian. This ministry does not share the costs of pre-existing conditions. Members pay for their own wellness care (think routine checkups and mammograms), but we can budget those known costs. Medical needs also involve discount negotiations and paperwork.

Health care sharing ministries make members take charge of their health care and think outside the framework of deductibles, copays and coinsurance. Due to unfamiliarity, most people cannot grasp them on the surface. Yet, through involvement with my county Farm Bureau’s health initiative, I have learned that most people don’t understand how health insurance works either.

Every month, I send money and a prayer note directly to a fellow Christian family and feel spiritually fulfilled by sharing in the burden of their health care costs: a urological treatment in Florida, a death in a Georgia family and a baby born in Illinois. It’s the only check I’m excited to write.

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