By Vicky Boyd
For the past several months, San Joaquin Farm Bureau leaders had been discussing possibly offering a suite of health and life insurance products as membership benefits. When the coronavirus pandemic struck, they knew they had to move quickly to help those in need.
“When the coronavirus epidemic came about and we started seeing layoffs, we knew it was something that was desperately needed by our members,” said SJFB President David Strecker. “We realized it was something that members might need rather than being a nice option.”
SJFB Executive Director Bruce Blodgett agreed.
“With the coronavirus, there are going to be people losing health insurance when somebody working an off-farm job loses (their job), and now there’s going to be a way for them to get insurance,” he said. “It will have everything – Sutter Health to Kaiser to Health Net to Blue Shield.”
Strecker said the suite also should allow families to find an insurance option that fits their needs.
“There’s a lot of choices available to everybody within the program, and that’s a good thing when you’re able to look at multiple different policies,” he said. “I’m excited about this partnership, and we’re filling a big void for many of our members.”
SJFB worked with Sam Cole, vice president of Keenan Direct, a division of Keenan & Associates, to develop the offerings that include health, dental, vision, disability and life insurance, and Medicare supplements. The plans are available for individuals and families or for employers who want to provide worker benefits.
“We’re going to be offering people anything and everything they can get on the marketplace that’s out there and available,” Cole said, referring to the Covered California Marketplace.
As a participant in a recent Covered California webinar, he learned first-hand the need for health insurance as thousands of people were laid off due to the coronavirus and lost their health coverage. As a result, the state has seen the largest health insurance signup ever of 123,000 people during a special open enrollment period beginning March 20 at the start of the pandemic.
The other option for those who lost their jobs and accompanying health coverage would be to sign up for COBRA – or Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act – health insurance, which requires former workers to pay the employer’s full insurance costs.
Having worked with Farm Bureau members both at the county and state levels for more than 35 years, Cole said he understands what farmers need, especially with some of the small group programs that provide employee health benefits.
“On the employer side, we work with them to define the contributions they can make with what they want to provide employees and the plan that will work best for them,” he said.
Keenan & Associates also has the experience, expertise and access to multiple carriers to help craft individual or group programs, Cole said.
Even if farmers have a health plan they are satisfied with, he said it’s a good idea to review it every few years “because everything is changing all the time.”
Blodgett said the insurance suite is just one of several membership benefits SJFB has developed in the past few years based on local input and need.
“If you can provide a service to members, give them a good product at a good price, that’s just another great benefit for them,” he said.
At one time, the California Farm Bureau Federation offered health insurance as a membership benefit. When the Affordable Healthcare Act was passed, forcing CFBF to cancel its program, Blodgett said SJFB alone lost about 1,500 members who had belonged for the insurance.
“Hopefully now we can start getting some of those people back,” Blodgett said. “It’s great for us and great for them.”
To find out more about the insurance programs, contact Cole at (916) 869-7160, ext. 4170; (916) 956-7777 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You also may contact Ryan Delay, who specializes in individual policies and Medicare products, at (916) 859-7160, ext. 4183.