Iowans who are struggling to afford health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplace gathered around Gov. Kim Reynolds today as she signed legislation allowing a lower-cost, unregulated product to take the place of traditional insurance.
Under the bill, the plans will not be required to cover pre-existing conditions or other mandates of Obamacare.
The Iowa Farm Bureau and Wellmark Insurance devised the new alternative after premiums rose to unaffordable levels for Iowans who are not covered by employers or who do not quality for government assistance.
"Many Iowans faced a choice of going broke or going without insurance,” Gov. Reynolds said before signing Senate File 2349. “And that's really not a real choice."
It is not yet clear what exactly the plans will cover. The Iowa Insurance Commissioner will have no jurisdiction over the coverage.
Josh Crist, an electrician who farms in the Tipton area, sees these new health benefit arrangements as "another option" to insurance.
"I want to continue to grow my electrical business in Tipton, provide competitive benefits and pay to my employees, but the increased insurance costs are always a concern," Crist said.
Crist says he and his wife, who have four daughters, are paying $24,000 this year for health care.
Rose Danaher is a Farm Bureau member who raises cattle on a farm just north of the Amana Colonies. She lost her health insurance last year when Iowa's individual marketplace collapsed.
“As most of you have heard, those of us that lost our plans really had one option remaining for health care coverage,” Danaher said. “I don't mind paying more than my fair share to help stabilize the marketplace, but there's no reason a healthy 32-year-old should be paying more for health insurance than for her mortgage."
Critics say the new alternative will draw even more healthy people away from Obamacare and push premiums even higher. Gov. Reynolds said she has to balance that concern with the needs of Iowans.
“I'm the governor of the state of Iowa and I have Iowans who don’t have coverage so we had to figure out some kind of option,” Reynolds said.
In addition to Farm Bureau and Wellmark, associations representing groups of Iowa businesses will also be allowed to offer the plans.