Negative impact of Obamacare much worse for ranchers, farmers than urban Americans

“When a replacement plan would have cost us $3800 for an even worse plan, we had two choices:  One, go without insurance, putting our daughters at risk, or two, go on the exchange.” Carrie Couey

by Marjorie Haun

A recent survey conducted by the Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) confirmed what many farm and ranch families have known for years, that they, and other rural families, have been negatively impacted by the the Affordable Care Act (ACA) more than Americans living in urban areas.

Known as Obamacare, the ACA has caused premiums and deductibles to skyrocket across the board for those families who’ve sought to purchase private health insurance. And for families requiring supplemental insurance or additional therapies or services for special needs children, both public and private choices have been limited, leaving many without access to necessary care. The Rural Radio Network reported the details of the NEFB survey:

The non-scientific survey reveals that Nebraska farmers and ranchers rely more heavily on the individual health insurance market and the health insurance exchange to purchase health insurance compared to non-farmers.

“Roughly 57 percent of farmers and ranchers purchase health insurance through either the individual market or the health insurance exchange. In comparison, only 23 percent of non-farmers purchase insurance through these markets. As a result, farmers and ranchers pay higher premiums and this expense is becoming a major overhead cost for farm and ranch families,” Steve Nelson, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau said April 19.

Farmers and ranchers across the country are challenged by the provisions of Obamacare because they tend to be property-rich, but cash poor, and so often do not qualify for more affordable plans. The article goes on to detail:

What was more telling was that monthly premiums paid by farmers and ranchers for health insurance tend to be higher relative to other purchasers of insurance. “Thirty-four percent of farmer and rancher respondents said their monthly premiums on insurance obtained in the individual market were greater than $1,500/month, or $18,000/year. Only 10 percent of the non-farm respondents who purchased insurance on the individual market paid a monthly premium greater than $1,500/month. Of the farmers and ranchers who obtain insurance through the exchange, 90 percent of them said they received subsidies to help with the cost of insurance…”

Given the unique physical risks to which ranchers and farmers are subject, the limited choices of Obamacare have left many rural families out in the cold. The unstable nature of farm and ranch income has also made it difficult for many families to maintain their healthcare plans, from year to year. These factors have lead to extreme levels of frustration and dissatisfaction with the ACA. According to the NEFB survey, “…farmers and ranchers overwhelmingly expressed dissatisfaction with the cost of their present health insurance – 98 percent of who purchased in the individual market expressed dissatisfaction with the cost. At the same time, 58 percent of who purchased insurance in the individual market expressed dissatisfaction with their benefits.”

Farmers and ranchers indicated in the NEFB survey that, since Obamacare was implemented, their monthly health care costs have become the number one or number two living expense.

Carrie Couey, a ranch wife from Silt, Colorado, and mother of 6 children, including her son who struggles with severe autism, was called to the White House last month to participate in a discussion about the effects of Obamacare on America’s rural families, and what remedies need to be applied to fix the law.

Image result for carrie couey white house obamacare
President Trump, Carrie Couey (Daily Sentinel photo)

Mrs. Couey says that “The bottom line is insurance costs too much, deductibles are too high, and the ACA is entirely unsustainable.” Mrs. Couey shared the following concerns with President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and other participants in the round table discussion:

Our 13 year old son, Cabe, is extremely autistic.  He does get Medicaid.  He has since he was 3 due to the severity of his condition.  We have always insured him in addition on our family plan for three reasons:  One, Medicaid does not cover all the care he needs and we needed the additional policy, two, we are morally opposed to having someone else work harder to cover the needs of our family and, three, we knew that if our family policy was primary we wouldn’t burden the Medicaid system more than we had to. 

On December 31, we were canceled for the fourth time on our family policy.  The canceled policy was $3087 a month without a subsidy.  We do not know if we would have qualified for a subsidy in 2016 or not, as it wasn’t in our nature to pursue that.  When a replacement plan would have cost us $3800 for an even worse plan, we had two choices:  One, go without insurance, putting our daughters at risk, or two, go on the exchange.  Though the exchange cost us less per month (we did qualify for a subsidy) and was a little over $1100 a month it no longer covered our two older daughters who are under 26, and Colorado will not allow a family on the exchange to insure a child who is also on Medicaid, so we lost the opportunity to have additional insurance for our son. 

Our policy now covers three less family members and our son no longer gets the benefit of the therapy he needs because it is not covered by Medicaid, it was being covered by our prior policy.  We are applying for a Medicaid waiver because that covers ABA therapy, but the process is very cumbersome and we are not through it yet.  In this way, our son has essentially become uninsurable, in essence, except for Medicaid, which we believe is entirely unsustainable, though he is one of the best candidates for it.  We had to weigh the needs of our daughters against that of our son. 

The very program that guarantees that he is taken care of (until the money runs out) causes insurance deprivation for the rest of the family.  The choice we had to make of going on the exchange, we also believe is unsustainable.  In addition to this, the one company willing to provide insurance in our county has all but chosen to not offer this coverage in 2018, making our county one with no insurance provider whatsoever.

Carrie Couey was joined at the President’s Obamacare round table by Stan Summers, a county commissioner from rural Box Elder County, Utah, along with doctors, caregivers, parents, and other citizens. The fact that the President and his Cabinet are listening to the voices of rural Americans, and has been made aware of the crushing effects of Obamacare on farmers and ranchers, bodes well for a potential fix in the forthcoming ‘repeal and replace’ bill. At the close of the President’s Obamacare round table Vice President Pence offered these words of comfort and encouragement to Mrs. Couey and the others present:

Mr. President, I think what unequivocally these great Americans see in high relief is you’re someone who puts people over politics. And I just want to thank all of them for coming, and in front of the national media, talking about the real world and impacts of Obamacare. You’ve said it consistently over the last two years that Obamacare has failed. But these people are emblematic of the Americans that Obamacare has failed.

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