Cooperative Health Care Gets Approved Farmers Given an Opportunity to Craft Their Own Solution to Rising Premiums By Jeff Nielsen, President/CEO
fter more than a decade of trips to St. Paul, as well as to Washington, D.C., efforts by United Farmers Cooperative and Cooperative Network finally paid off. On Jan. 25, the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate overwhelmingly approved a new health care reform act and Governor Dayton signed it into law. This law contains a provision that will allow agricultural producers who join together to develop their own self-insurance programs, like the programs employees of large corporations have enjoyed for years. Over the past 10 years, UFC and Cooperative Network have met with senators, representatives and insurance industry leaders to lay the ground work for this legislation. Cooperative Network is a trade association supported by farm supply cooperatives, grain cooperatives, rural electric cooperatives, credit unions, senior housing cooperatives and other
co-op sectors. One of its’ purposes is to provide expertise and guidance in dealing with policy changes and programs that directly affect cooperatives and their members. This two-state organization was created when the Minnesota Association of Cooperatives merged with the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives in 2009. For UFC, this journey began nearly 15 years ago when our company successfully started our own program to provide health care for our growing number of employees. This program has successfully provided employees and their families with stable insurance coverage along with excellent benefits—such as wellness programs and prescription purchasing power. This model has worked so well that the program has not seen a premium increase for nearly seven years. In fact, premiums actually fell in 2017 due to the excellent health and performance of the UFC employee team. Our cooperative’s success provided an example to lawmakers of what could
UFC General Manager Jeff Nielsen, attorney Darcy Hitesma and Matt Hughes of Cooperative Network discuss features of the health care plan with the Legislative Conference Committee. be done if individuals joined together to solve the health insurance challenges. The resulting legislation allows for farmers across Minnesota to group together through an independent cooperative to purchase health coverage. It has taken over a decade to get this law passed. Now that it is in place, we’re working diligently to bring health care alternatives to ag producers as soon as possible. Stay tuned for more on this new solution. For now, the future looks bright. ●
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