Legislation to authorize Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation to offer a health plan as a member benefit was introduced with 30 co-sponsors in both houses of the state legislature. Hearings on Assembly Bill 860 and Senate Bill 811 were held in January in their chamber’s respective insurance committees.
Several state Farm Bureaus around the country already provide their members with access to affordable health plans. This legislation allows WFBF to provide our members with the same opportunity.
Members from around the state gathered at the Capitol to testify in favor of Farm Bureau Health Plans. Members spoke of the impact this would have on their farms such as reducing operation costs, encouraging healthier lifestyles and keeping families on their family farms.
Below are excerpts from members’ testimonies so you can hear from them directly about why Farm Bureau Health Plans matter to them.
Brad Olson, WFBF President and District 9 Director
“Unfortunately, the cost of health coverage has been an issue for farmers as long as I can remember,” said WFBF President Brad Olson. “While the Affordable Care Act has helped many people who don’t have employer-sponsored plans find and access health coverage, because of the industry we are in and the structure of our businesses, farmers remain in the same position they have been for decades; making a choice between someone taking a job in town to access coverage or risking their chances being uninsured.”
Kat Peper, WFBF Young Farmer and Agriculturist Chair State Representative and Sauk County Farm Bureau Member
“This issue is important to me because I am one of those farmers that has to have a job off the farm just to have insurance for my husband and I,” said YFA State Representative Kat Peper. “Looking towards the future, we want to grow our farm and grow our family. Being able to have this option so I can be at home to do that is vital for myself and other Wisconsin farmers.”
Rachel Harmann, WisGO Team and Door County Farm Bureau Member
“We know rural Wisconsin is a childcare desert let alone the cost if you can find it,” said WisGO Team Member Rachel Harmann. “It’s a catch-22. I either had to stay home and be a mom and not carry health insurance or work off the farm and send my kids to daycare and figure out how to pay for that. Farm Bureau really can be a resource to provide this coverage. When we’re looking to bring people back to the farm, what’s the draw? We need do something about it today.”
Sydney Flick, WisGO Team and Columbia County Farm Bureau Member
“If farms were able to have some sort of assistance in getting health coverage, it would make a world of difference to people trying to enter that field. For young farmers like me, I think it opens a road of something you don’t have to worry about,” said WisGO Team Member Sydney Flick. “We have a lot of obstacles that you have to jump through if you want to get into production agriculture today. And one of the things you are going to look at is, if I have a $2,000 expense coming in a month for getting coverage on the farm, is that worth going into farming? Is that worth getting health coverage for me? Farmers need a better option for health coverage and this Farm Bureau Health Plan could really be an asset to our membership.”
Libby Hafften, WisGO Team and Jefferson County Farm Bureau Member
“My sister and I are the second generation on our farm to be full-time farmers,” said WisGO Team Member Libby Hafften. “My husband wants to come join the farm too but now that we’re married, we’ve decided he’s going to stay off the farm until we’re done having children because he’s the reason we have health insurance. The opportunity this bill presents is huge in terms of keeping people in the agriculture industry.”
Robert Nigh, District 3 Director and Vernon County Farm Bureau Member
“My wife is a nurse and had to work full time to get insurance. After we paid that plus daycare, there wasn’t much money left,” said District 3 Director Robert Nigh. “Now our children are married and are going through the same thing. My younger son has a child. He pays 20K for childcare and his wife would rather be on the farm. It’s a terrible strain on my son, my daughter-in-law and two granddaughters. My second son is having a child soon and, again, has the same issue. We live in a childcare desert. There are seven kids for each daycare opening. This isn’t just a health care issue – it’s a mental health and child care issue.”