President's message: You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t cause it. But you need to deal with it.

Issue Date: October 9, 2013
Paul Wenger

As farmers, ranchers and business owners in general, many of the forces that impact our operations are well beyond our control. That's why so many have said it takes a unique type of person to deal with the unpredictability and vagaries of weather or other forces of nature, as well as the psychology of markets driven as much by emotion or innuendo as supply and demand.

Businesses need to be able to adapt to survive or they will become extinct. Those involved in production agriculture are at the front of the line when it comes to being adept at dealing with unforeseen forces.

One of those issues confronting Californians, including those of us in agriculture, is the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. While few are without opinion with regard to the pros or cons of the ACA—which is still a topic of debate in the halls of Congress—those of us who are directly affected by it must deal with it. While all of us would prefer to control the many influences that affect our businesses, it just doesn't happen that way. Just like dealing with the unexpected frost, hailstorm, fire or flood, we buckle down and get on with dealing with the facts that are presented to us.

On Dec. 31, all individual and family health insurance policies that are individually underwritten will be cancelled as a result of the ACA. This means unless you are enrolled in a Large Group Health Insurance Program, either through your employment or the employment of a family member, your current health insurance policy will more than likely cease to exist on Dec. 31. Some small group insurance programs may continue without substantial change for another year, but be certain to check to determine if your small group policy is one of those that will remain in effect. Don't assume anything: The health care coverage for you, your family and employees is too important.

Rural California has often been plagued with a lack of medical care providers, which tend to locate around denser population centers. That's why the California Farm Bureau Federation was integral in the development of a unique insurance program that was considered a group-type policy, allowing for insurance customers to be individually underwritten. That means individuals who met the health criteria of the insurance program offered were afforded health and medical services at a price much less than paying for the full health care costs out of their own pocket. The CFBF Health Insurance Program has been in existence since 1946. Several different companies provided the insurance coverage under the Farm Bureau umbrella during those many years, from CalFarm to Nationwide Health to the current health programs offered by HealthNet.

Recent statistics indicate that about 6 percent, or 2.5 million Californians, have individual health insurance coverage. This may seem like a small number in light of our state's total population. But when you consider many of those are individuals involved in small and/or family businesses, and that they are often located in rural areas of California, the potential impact on California farmers and ranchers could be far greater than on the general population.

To help provide as much guidance as humanly possible during this unusual occurrence, when millions of people will need to change their current health insurance coverage to one that is accepted under the ACA guidelines, CFBF has identified Keenan & Associates as an agency that is Covered California-certified, providing health insurance options in all counties in California. Keenan can assist members who need guidance in transitioning as smoothly as possible to an ACA-compliant health plan, either through the Covered California exchange or a qualifying plan outside the exchange. Keenan is one of the larger health insurance brokers in the United States.

All Farm Bureau members currently covered by one of our health plans have received a letter from CFBF, as required by the ACA. Some may already have contacted their brokers, or may wish to contact Keenan for assistance. There will likely be huge demand placed on the telephone numbers of service providers because of the large number of people needing to change their health insurance coverage, so please be patient. Individuals will have until Dec. 31 to enroll in a new, ACA-compliant health insurance program. Do not allow yourself to be vulnerable to an unexpected medical emergency that could jeopardize your financial well-being. You have time to find the health plan best suited to you, your family and/or employees. Be deliberate in making sure you have the coverage you need.

The only constant in this world is change, for good or bad. Don't allow personal discouragement or disgust to cause you to procrastinate with your health care needs. For 67 years, the California Farm Bureau has been proud to provide an effective health care insurance program for our members. That era ends on Dec. 31. However, just like dealing with the unexpected on your farm, ranch or with your business, CFBF is proud to assist our members and others as we adapt to this new paradigm in health care.

Good luck, be patient and make sure you have health insurance before Jan. 1, 2014.

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.