According to the Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB), a recent survey of Nebraska Farm Bureau members strongly indicates that farm and ranch families are negatively impacted at a much higher level than their urban counterparts as they cope with exponential growth of premiums in the individual health insurance markets, caused by the implementation the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) also known as Obamacare.
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.
In just two weeks, nearly 850 people responded to the NEFB survey. “It indicates that healthcare is a hot topic in the countryside,” Nelson said. Respondents were asked to report whether they received health insurance through an employer, by directly purchasing through the open market, or through Obamacare.
“A large number of farmers and ranchers purchase their health insurance through the open individual market. We’ve been concerned for a long time about the cost of health insurance for these individuals. It’s troublesome because the risk is with farmers and ranchers who are on the open market trying to get a reasonable priced healthcare insurance product but are exposed to a market that is right now unstable and facing less competition,” Nelson said.
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,” Nelson said.
When asked their level of satisfaction with the cost and benefits they now have, 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.
“The findings reinforce the need to assure the stability of the individual market for health insurance. Each day we’re hearing of insurance companies questioning the economic viability of the individual market,” Nelson said. The findings also serve as an important reminder that any kind of legislation that impacts the viability of the individual health care market is a concern.
“We have heard from farmers and ranchers that their monthly health care premium is becoming the number one or number two family living expense, it clearly points out that the health insurance system we have now is broken and needs fixed. These exploding expenses are coming at a time when the farm economy is very weak and net farm income is one-half of what it was just a few years ago,” said Nelson.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau is a grassroots, state-wide organization dedicated to supporting farm and ranch families and working for the benefit of all Nebraskans through a wide variety of educational, service and advocacy efforts. More than 61,000 families across Nebraska are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve rural and urban prosperity as agriculture is a key fuel to Nebraska’s economy. For more information about Nebraska Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit www.nefb.org.