Interview by Eric Jenks, Special to Agri-Services Agency
At Agri-Services Agency, we are passionate about serving the agriculture community. Our team of experts develop new solutions, processes and programs to enhance insurance offerings and help your operation minimize risk, improve safety culture and offer competitive benefits. Earlier this month, Paul Kulpa, who assisted in the development and launch of a new health insurance program, shared details with Morning AgClips. Read below for the full article about the new association health plan in Kansas and current challenges facing the health care market.
Agri-Services Agency (ASA)’s Senior Director of Operations Paul Kulpa is based out of Syracuse, N.Y., and began working for ASA over 10 years ago. “I oversee the insurance agency operations of ASA,” said Kulpa. “That includes the internal health insurance program that we administer. We are currently developing a new association health plan, and we also work with major carriers all across the country of course, so that we can get the best coverage possible for our farmers and agri-businesses.” Kulpa received a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management from SUNY Institute of Technology, as well as a masters in science healthcare administration from the same institution.
Kulpa is originally from the Syracuse, N.Y., area, but moved to Tennessee for a decade for work. “I wasn’t actively looking for a job before I found ASA, but we wanted to come back and be closer to home,” said Kulpa. “I had counterparts that worked at ASA, so I reached out and went from there after they said they wanted to talk to me. I like ASA. I work with great people, and I also love it because we work with dairy farmers every day. They’re real salt of the earth people. I also like that it has allowed me to travel to a number of areas and farms all over the country which is really cool. It can be a little daunting when you travel every other week, but in the end it’s fun. I like working in insurance, and helping explain the complexity of insurance to people that don’t work with it everyday. Helping them see that they need it and us assisting the farms is great.”
Kulpa is currently working on a new health program for ASA in Texas and Kansas. “It’s what I used to do at Blue Cross for product development, so it’s nice doing stuff that lends to my old expertise,” said Kulpa. “We’re developing an association health plan that’s specific to agricultural businesses. Currently it will be limited to Texas and Kansas, but there may be an opportunity to expand into other states. The healthcare solution in both states is very unique in that it is specific to dairy farms and other agricultural businesses. We’re unique, since we act as an agent and write insurance for farms and ag business, but we also have our own workers’ compensation program. We’re an agency and carrier in one. We targeted Texas and Kansas because of the significant number of ag businesses in those states.” ASA expects these programs to be available Dec. 1, 2023 in Kansas, and April 1, 2024, in Texas.
Looking at current and future insurance market conditions, Kulpa sees more stability than were the case during and right after the Covid-19 pandemic. “In 2023 going into 2024, we’re back to the trends that we saw prior to 2020,” said Kulpa. “I say that because in 2020, there was very low utilization of healthcare services, because people weren’t going to the doctor, which was the case in 2021 as well. In 2022, there was a spike in services being used because of pent up need. Going into 2024 however, we’re back to the normal trend, which is a 10-12% increase in premiums. There’s no control over utilization of services in the health insurance market.”
The new healthcare program that ASA is working on is aimed at addressing the systemic problems of healthcare in the United States. “When you look at the health of the country and issues that it faces, large employers have the ability to meet wellness goals and drive down health costs due to their larger buying power and ability to incentivize wellness programs,” said Kulpa. “In smaller markets however, they don’t have that opportunity to put those programs in place due to cost. Our new association health plan allows small employers to come together and receive a full range of health benefits with no network restrictions while using a reference-based pricing for the payment model. It allows employers to save 15-25% based on the payment methodology that we use for hospitals and outpatient facilities. For example, and these numbers are purely hypothetical, a hospital might charge $3,000 for a procedure, and other carriers will say no we’ll pay $1,500, which is 50% off billed charges. But the actual cost for the procedure for the hospital is only $250. What we’re doing with reference-based pricing is saying we’ll pay you $250 plus 12%, or we’ll pay you what Medicare would pay plus 20%. We’re still paying a premium, but a lot of times these billed charges that are sent to carriers are essentially meaningless. It’s not just a 50% discount on an insanely high billed charge. We feel that reference-based pricing will be the future for the country. Not only does it help employers save money on premiums, but if a patient has a deductible, it’ll help them save money out of pocket since the billed amount is lower as well.”
For those interested in learning more about ASA and what it can do for their business, there are several options to learn more. “Every farm and agribusiness is different and has different needs, and we always want to listen, and then give them the best options possible,” said Kulpa. “The best path forward is to give our service center a call at1-877-466-9089. Then we can evaluate the business and come up with a plan to best suit their needs.”