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Healthcare Option Closer

by Steve Grinczel

Published: Friday, February 14, 2020

Indiana farmers who operate as sole proprietors moved a step closer toward having the option of buying healthcare insurance for their families at group-plan prices.

Last week, the Indiana Senate passed legislation that would change the law preventing farms with fewer than two employees from buying into plans available to small business-owners. The bill, strongly advocated by Indiana Farm Bureau, passed by a vote of 49-0 and will be taken up next in the House of Representative.

According to an INFB study, more than 70 percent of Indiana farmers said they had just themselves or one employee working on their farms and a majority indicated the cost of healthcare insurance is adversely affecting their bottom line.

Forty-seven percent of those surveyed admitted they didn't do preventative healthcare maintenance because of cost, and many farmers don't carry any kind of coverage.

The only healthcare options available to sole proprietors is to purchase coverage through the state exchange mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act or faith-based organizations.

However, cost under the federal program can be prohibitive and farmers only qualify for subsidies if they meet the low-income standard. Insurance offered by religious groups generally come with strict restrictions.

According to a 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded study, 52 percent of farmers surveyed said they were not confident they could pay for a major health event without going into debt or losing their farms.

INFB has pointed to Tennessee and Kansas as leading examples of states that allow group plans for sole proprietors.

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