Guest Column: Farmer co-op plans prove to be a success

Published 10:49 pm Friday, January 12, 2018

Guest Column by Tim Miller and Greg Davids

Last session, Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature prioritized lowering the cost and improving the quality of your health care, and recent news continues to show our plans are making a difference for many in Greater Minnesota.

Tim Miller

A recent report showed 1,700 Minnesota families have utilized our new agricultural cooperative health plans. They allow a new type of cooperative made up of member-owners in agribusiness to provide health insurance to their members. This was a need that had to be addressed as farmers practically didn’t have health insurance in Greater Minnesota and most everyone in the agriculture community faced unaffordable health care options.

40 Square cooperative saw more than 1,000 enrollments, with an additional 700 enrollments for a new agriculture co-op health plan offered by Land O’Lakes.

The ag co-op plans enrolled more Minnesotans over its first few months of operation than MNsure’s small business website did in its first three years of existence.

It’s also worth noting these co-op choices have zero cost to state government. To make them available, all lawmakers needed to do was cut some governmental red tape and allow the marketplace to present its customers with legitimate, affordable health care options. The SHOP exchange — part of the $400 million MNsure website fiasco — is now defunct.

Greg Davids

Ag health co-ops provide an alternative to the individual health insurance market, which has been ravaged by MNsure and Obamacare-driven premium hikes. Democrats claim ag-health co-ops will reduce the number of people in the individual market, but we say our constituents deserve better options now. These are the same Democrats who put Minnesota all-in on Obamacare and already moved thousands of people off the individual market to government-funded insurance. This led to skyrocketing costs and fewer choices — just ask farmers.

The Republican goal is to lower your health care costs, not waste more of your money on failing government programs that make health insurance more unaffordable.

Expanding agriculture co-ops was just one of several major Republican-led reforms implemented during the 2017 legislative session. Others include:

• Allowing more competition among health insurers, which has already led to expanded options and better prices for seniors and employees.

• A nationally-recognized premium stabilization program that helped reduce and stabilize premium rates for thousands of Minnesotans.

• A new law requiring health plans to offer access to more than one hospital or clinic system, which has already improved network access.

• Reducing barriers for small businesses to self-insure their employees.

• Consumer protections to end “surprise billing” by requiring disclosure of potential out-of-network charges prior to procedures.

Much more work remains to undo the damage Obamacare has caused in our state. Next session we’ll continue exploring solutions that will lower your health care costs, improve choice and restore Minnesota’s place a national leader in health care.

But our diagnosis is that last session’s health care reforms are positively impacting Minnesotans, and we’re hopeful more farmers and others working in agribusiness will explore the new — and likely more affordable — ag co-op health options that are now available to them.

State Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, sponsored the ag co-op legislation, and state Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, is co-chairman of the MNsure Legislative Oversight Committee.