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Health care benefits for your farm

Farm Management: Health plans can protect your family and help you attract farm employees

Most farmer operators assume that health care benefits are only for people with off-farm jobs. Farmers usually pay for their own massage therapy and trips for the dentist. Farm employees aren’t always offered the same benefits they could get from non-farm employers. But, there are health care plan options for farmers. Buying an extended health care plan is actually relatively easy. Farmers can be part of a group health plan with as few as three people.

Jolene Moen, her husband Brant and her mother-in-law Sheryl are grain farmers from Stewart Valley, Sask. On 5,000 acres, the Moens farm pulses, durum, and oilseeds. As of right now, says Jolene Moen, they have one employee and a few casual employees during the busy times. The Moens thought about health insurance when they incorporated their farm. “Knowing that we have security both for our employees and for ourselves, that’s what is important to us,” says Moen.

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The Moens chose a health plan that has a long list of benefits. “Dental, health, drugs, massage, naturopath, basic life insurance — and a key thing for us was disability and critical. A lot of people forget about those and on a farm you never know what can happen. So to know you’re covered in all aspects is very important,” Moen says. Knowing that they can offer insurance if they do hire more farm employees also offers peace of mind. Farm employees are helping you with your livelihood, says Moen, and often they don’t get any additional benefits. Health insurance is one way to help.

Moen says they chose a plan that was affordable, but still covered quite a bit. “As soon as you hear the word ‘insurance,’ it scares a lot of people. What image does that bring to you? Dollar signs,” says Moen. “And, yes, group insurance can be expensive, so if you’re interested in it I suggest meeting with an advisor.” One thing to remember, says Moen, is that group insurance differs from individual insurance and it’s often cheaper than what’d you pay individually.

Moen also emphasizes how easy the process is. The most time-consuming part was getting starting and figuring out which plan they wanted. Now that they are set up, they can submit claims and review their plan details from an app on their smartphones. As owners, the Moens are also administrators of the plan. Moen says this part is very easy too. Everything is online and changes are easy to make. “It’s awesome,” says Moen.

Get your own health plan

If you think group health insurance might fit your farm, Moen suggests visiting your local chamber of commerce. Most people don’t realize they can provide quotes from a variety of insurers. “That’s what we did,” says Moen. “And then you can find a policy that’s right for your operation.”

Another option is to visit a specialist. Insurance broker Elan Kidd is an exclusive representative of the Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan, working through Qtrade Insurance Solutions. Kidd says the Chambers of Commerce Plan (just one of the plans you can learn about by visiting your chamber of commerce) is a good fit for small farm businesses because, unlike some plans, the Chambers’ model doesn’t limit the number of family members allowed on the plan. Another plus, says Elan, is that purchasers can “design the plan according to what’s important to them.” Budget, choice of benefits, and consideration of disability and critical illness all factor in. “It’s not one plan, take it or leave it. Plans can really be tailored to the farm’s needs.”

Kidd says farmers are increasingly interested in these plans “partly to compete with other industries that are offering benefits. They can either attract or retain good employees.” Further, Kidd emphasizes, small groups are quite often the norm. She does a lot of work with groups of 10 or fewer employees. If there are three or more people, no medical questions are asked.

If you considered group health insurance in the past but didn’t take the plunge, Kidd notes that some features are relatively new. For instance, critical illness benefits weren’t typically offered even 10 years ago. “Critical illness provides a lump sum benefit in the event you’re diagnosed with one of the covered critical conditions — heart, stroke, cancer, MS, blindness, deafness and others.” Kidd has seen many critical illness claims in the last few years. Many newer plans have additional features, like “owner access to legal, human resources, and accounting services,” if a second opinion is needed on a legal issue, or if you need a human resources expert’s opinion on a “challenging issue with an employee.”

For more information about the Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan, see its website dedicated to farmers.

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