Farmers cooperating for health insurance

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published May 1, 2007  | May 2007 issue

To address the concerns of underinsurance among its farmers, Wisconsin has created a new health insurance program by going back to its cooperative roots.

In a unique partnership, the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives, the state Agri-Services Agency and Aetna unveiled the Wisconsin Farmers' Health Cooperative to provide farmers and agribusinesses with health insurance coverage at better prices than they could otherwise find.

This particular co-op has been a while in the making. The state Legislature passed a so-called co-op care law in 2003 to allow for just this sort of insurance purchasing pool. Since then, the program has had to design health care options, obtain financing and find insurance partners willing to write policies for co-op members.

To be eligible, participants must derive two-thirds of their income from farming or work for an agribusiness that provides direct services to production agriculture in the state, which is subject to cooperative approval. Members are required to sign up for three years in order to remove some of the volatility of the membership population and its overall risk profile.

Ronald A. Wirtz