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The National Farmers Union, which represents a quarter of a million farm and ranch families, has announced that it supports health care reform legislation. The NFU in particular said farm workers in Arkansas, Maine and Nebraska would benefit from health care reform now pending in Congress. Those are states, of course, with senators who are teetering in their support of the health care bill that was introduced last weekend.
Farmers often have to purchase insurance for themselves and their families in the individual market where premiums are higher,” said Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union President. “Farmers also tend to be older and are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions, and private insurers consider them to be in a high risk profession.” Drovers reports that insurance premiums on average have risen more than 75 percent from 2000-2007 in Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine and Nebraska. The increases are even greater in the individual and small group market available to most farmers.
“Nebraska family farmers and ranchers are being squeezed out of business by health care premiums, deductibles, and medical exclusions that continue to go up faster than farm income or the cost of living. Two companies control 69 percent of the Nebraska’s health care market, one with 42 percent and the other with 25 percent market share. The question on the table is: “How do we bring competition and cost control to health care in Nebraska?” If the public option is not the best way solve the lack of competition problem, then what is the alternative? No reform is not an answer we can afford,” said John Hansen, President of the Nebraska Farmers Union, in a press release.