Experts: Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Health Benefits Plan comes at critical time

The new Ohio Farm Bureau Health Benefits Plan will help meet the needs of Ohio farmers and small businesses at a time when there is a lot of uncertainty in the health insurance industry, a panel of experts said.

“The (Affordable Care Act) has taken choice away from employers where before you had an opportunity to work with your broker to create a plan that made sense for your employees,” said James Smith, broker relations and acquisitions manager for Association Benefit Planners. “Those choices are very limited right now under the current environment. The Ohio Farm Bureau plan will bring back choices for your members.”

Smith and four other health insurance experts spoke about OFBF’s new Health Benefits Plan as well as the current state of the U.S. insurance industry during the Ohio Farm and Food Leadership Forum Nov. 30 in Columbus.

Late last year, Ohio Farm Bureau announced it was starting a Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement plan. The Health Benefits Plan is governed by members of the plan, elected by members of the plan. OFBF partner Medical Mutual of Ohio is administering the health claims processing and provider network. Plan participants, which include Ohio Farm Bureau staff members, will see competitive rates, predictable payments, a broad network of doctors and hospitals, flexible benefit plans and expanded wellness programs.

OFBF’s health plan meets the requirements of the U.S. Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service and Ohio Department of Insurance, and those three agencies will monitor the plan’s financial condition, said George Stadtlander, president of Consoliplex, a firm that provides health plan management services.

“Think of this as a self-funded cooperative that’s backed and regulated in an appropriate fashion,” said Stadtlander, who is described as the “architect” of Farm Bureau’s plan.

The panelists praised the fact that nine different health plans are offered and will give employers “very good prescription drug benefits which in this day and age is very hard to find,” said Tim Paradiso, president of The Ashley Group, one of the brokers marketing the plan.

The panelists predicted reform or repeal of the Affordable Care Act will take years to enact.

“(The OFB) plan is critical over the next couple of years to offer people a choice until they get the ACA figured out,” said Randy Ayers, president of National United Brokers.

The Ohio Farm Bureau Health Benefits Plan is available to sole proprietors who have employees and to other employers with 2-99 employees. Eligible businesses must be headquartered in Ohio and must operate within the “farm-to-fork” agricultural sector. Learn more at