Who says the legislative process doesn’t work? Giving credit where credit is due, here’s a story of an ag organization and a leader who saw a desperate need and decided to do something about it- even if meant changing Indiana law.
Looking back from the vantage point of early 2022, Indiana Farm Bureau Health Plans seem like a remarkable achievement. Many INFB members say they exist because of the tenacity and leadership of INFB’s president, Randy Kron, an Evansville farmer. Kron would say the farm group brought the program to reality through the dedication of hundreds of INFB members. From where we sit, both Kron and the members are right — it took effort from everyone. The result is a great success story for rural Hoosiers.
As of mid-January, one year after enrollment began, 1,700 traditional health plans were in place. Counting other types of coverage, Patrick Williams, INFB’s Health Plans manager, reports that over 2,100 plans were active with nearly 5,000 Hoosiers enrolled.
While rural residents are participating, so are INFB members from more populated areas. Marion County led in plans issued in the inaugural year, followed by Hamilton County. Other counties with strong enrollment include Knox, LaPorte, Vanderburgh, Lake, Posey, Allen and Benton.
Although happy with progress so far, Williams says they’re moving forward on new initiatives. Through a new partnership with Maven Maternity, expectant mothers enrolled will get access to a variety of new services.
To learn more, visit infbhealthplans.com.
By mid-2019, Kron was convinced there must be a way to provide better health care options to members, many of whom were single proprietors drowning in high health care costs. After energizing his staff to do its homework, Kron believed the answer was to pattern a system after Tennessee Farm Bureau, which was offering health care options to members.
Besides details to sort out, there was one large obstacle standing in the way: Indiana law did not allow group coverage health plans for single proprietors.
Jake Smoker, Wanatah, Ind., had a front-row seat to watch Kron and INFB in action as chairman of the Indiana Young Farmers. In fact, Smoker and his wife, Jill, became actively involved and were advocates in pushing for the change in the law.
“I spoke about why young farmers needed a better alternative for health care at the INFB state convention in 2019, just before Gov. [Eric] Holcomb took the stage,” Smoker recalls. “It was an honor, and it was also a cause we believed in.”
Smoker made numerous trips to the statehouse in 2020 to support the change and was present to see the final vote passing it into law. “It was a great thing to be part of, and a great feeling to see our efforts cross the finish line,” he says.
Indeed, the next time someone comes up against a challenge that seems too tough, they should recall the story behind INFB Health Plans. It’s a shining example that yet today, if the cause is just, it’s possible to accomplish a difficult task.
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