PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Starting Friday, October 1, South Dakota residents who are or become members of South Dakota Farm Bureau can buy health benefits coverage through it.

The Legislature in March passed SB 87 opening an exemption in South Dakota’s insurance laws for non-profit agriculture organizations.

South Dakota Farm Bureau lobbied and testified for the change. Critics warned legislators that it’s not health insurance. The state Division of Insurance reviewed it and eventually allowed it to go ahead.

The exemption requires that an organization using the exemption must identify for state regulators the company serving as the reinsurer and that the company be licensed in South Dakota.

The last sentence of the new law says, “Any health benefit plan application for coverage and any contract provided to a member must prominently state that the health benefit plan is not insurance, that the plan is not provided by an insurance company, that the plan is not subject to the laws and rules governing insurance, and that the plan is not subject to the jurisdiction of the division.”

None of that information is on the SDFB’s website for the program, however.

One of the groups lobbying against it was rival South Dakota Farmers Union, which operates an insurance business that offers health care coverage. Farmers Union doesn’t plan to offer the program, SDFU lobbyist Mitch Richter said Monday.

The Senate passed the exemption 19-15, with Senate Republican leader Gary Cammack as prime sponsor. The House vote was 50-16. Governor Kristi Noem signed it into law February 18.

Farm Bureau last week announced the October 1 startup. The website’s frequently-asked questions page says it’s not a requirement to be a member to get a price quote or talk to a program representative, but the next answer says membership is required prior to applying.

Said Farm Bureau spokeswoman Brenda Dreyer, “We are excited to provide another option for affordable health care coverage for SDFB members.”