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Farm bureau unveils limited health plan that cuts costs

Health coverage offered by the Iowa Farm Bureau through a new option approved by the Iowa Legislature will allow people to be turned away if they have pre-existing conditions.

Posted: Oct 5, 2018 1:20 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Health coverage offered by the Iowa Farm Bureau through a new option approved by the Iowa Legislature will allow people to be turned away if they have pre-existing conditions.

The farm bureau unveiled details of its health coverage Wednesday, about seven months after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law that promises to lower costs by skirting requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act.

The farm bureau's plan isn't considered insurance, meaning it won't be regulated by the Iowa Insurance Division or be bound by federal regulations.

Applicants will be asked if they have been diagnosed or treated for a variety of ailments, including diabetes, heart problems or mental issues, according to The Des Moines Register . Farm Bureau Vice President Steve Kammeyer said the organization will be free to reject applicants or charge them more money, unlike standard health insurance offered through an Affordable Care Act exchange.

The farm bureau promised premiums would be "much lower" than comparable insurance plans that comply with the ACA but didn't provide specific figures. The organization said its plans would cover maternity services, mental health care and prescription drugs.

To enroll in the plan, people will need to join the organization and show they don't qualify for insurance through their employers and a government plan, such as Medicare and Medicaid. The farm bureau plans will be sold through insurance agents, and they will be administered by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Former Iowa Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss said she's concerned about the plan's lack of oversight and was skeptical about how it will compare to traditional insurance. Wellmark is overseen by regulators.

"I just think there are a lot of holes in it," Voss said.

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said he supports the farm bureau plans.

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