Senator Randy Feenstra.

Iowans getting their insurance policies through the “ObamaCare” marketplace would have a new, cheaper option under a bill the Iowa Senate approved last night.

The bill would allow the Iowa Farm Bureau to sell “health benefit plans” offered by Wellmark that aren’t subject to the same coverage requirements as traditional insurance, making the premiums less expensive. Senator Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, said the bill will help Iowans who can no longer afford to buy an individual insurance policy.

“This seems to be a good test model for us to try,” Feenstra says.

If the bill becomes law, independent insurance agents around the state would be able to sell these cheaper “health benefit plans,” but the plans would only be available to Farm Bureau members.

“If there is success, maybe next year we can look at other organizations that Iowa citizens trust and then we can create, maybe, other plans as we move forward,” Feenstra said.

Senator Julian Garrett, a Republican from Indianola, said this option would solve a “big problem” for self-employed Iowans, including farmers.

“There are thousands of people in that category and so I can’t overemphasize how big a deal this is for those people,” Garrett said. “This is just a lifesaver.”

Nine Democrats in the Senate voted against the bill.

“The funny thing about health insurance is you don’t need it until you do,” Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, said. “None of us know when the next heart attack’s going to come, when the next stroke’s going to come or when we’re going to be diagnosed with leukemia.”

Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, said these are “buyer beware policies” that may lead to financial shock when people discover their plan won’t the cover the costs of things like cancer drugs.

“There are people ready to buy those policies,” Bolkcom said, “but I thing we should just be clear about that.”

Other Democrats argued Medica, the only company left selling individual insurance policies in Iowa, would be financially harmed as it loses customers who buy the Farm Bureau/Wellmark plans

Forty of the 50 state senators voted for the bill. Similar legislation is pending in the Iowa House.