WASHINGTON – The latest plan put forth by U.S. Senate leadership to overhaul the nation’s health care system stands to worsen access to affordable and quality health care for American family farmers and ranchers, according to the nation’s second largest general farm organization.
In a letter sent to members of the Senate today, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson urged legislators to vote against the plan, known as Graham-Cassidy, and stated NFU’s intent to score the vote. NFU continues to call on Congress to begin a transparent, bipartisan approach to improving the current system.
“NFU’s member-driven policy ‘affirms the right of all Americans to have access to affordable, quality health care,’” said Johnson. “The Graham-Cassidy bill does not address the barriers that farmers and ranchers face in accessing health coverage, and it would only make matters worse. We urge you to vote no on the legislation.”
Johnson cited a number of provisions within the Graham-Cassidy bill that would make health care less affordable for family farmers and ranchers, including the elimination of the current structure for tax credits, cost-sharing reductions, and subsidies for out of pocket costs.
Johnson said the plan would create even more uncertainty in the marketplace, forcing insurance companies to raise premiums. “NFU is extremely concerned about the bill’s effects on the non-group marketplace,” he said. “Insurance companies continually point to marketplace uncertainty as the reason they’re being forced to increase rates. Graham-Cassidy eliminates marketplace subsidies in 2020, leaving the marketplace far more unstable than it is currently. States would then be left with the challenge of devising their own market-stabilizing plans in the face of annual budget decreases.”
Johnson noted that the bill would make it easier to deny farming and ranching families important health care protections and services. The bill allows states to waive requirements for essential health benefits, which are “particularly crucial for making prescription drugs, preventive services, and rehabilitative services affordable for family farmers and ranchers.” It also removes current prohibitions on lifetime and annual limits that are important to individuals with preexisting conditions.
Johnson also reiterated the NFU’s strong opposition to cutting Medicaid funding. He noted that Medicaid enrollment is higher in rural communities than in urban areas, and rural hospitals are more dependent on Medicaid payments than their urban counterparts.
Johnson emphasized NFU’s concern with the lack of transparency in the legislating process to date, highlighting the far-reaching impacts the bill would have on farmers, ranchers, and all Americans. “There have been no hearings on this bill, and there will be no opportunity for a mark-up,” he said. “This highly partisan process has robbed farmers and ranchers of the opportunity to make their voices heard.”