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Insurance Checkup, Health-Care Reform

January 7, 2013
By: Ed Clark, Top Producer Business and Issues Editor

What the health-care law means to farm families and rural America

The red-hot rhetoric over healthcare reform has toned down to a slow burn. Now in implementation mode, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will steadily unfold for the next five years.

Regardless of where you stand on the act, which mandates all Americans carry health insurance, there are benefits in the fine print for both farmers and rural America, contends Brock Slabach, vice president of the National Rural Health Association.

"I grew up on a farm. I know there is the perception in rural America that Obamacare is bad," he says.

Results of a recent AgWeb poll support that statement. Of the more than 1,500 respondents, just 11% said they believe the health care act will improve coverage for their families, while 74% said the law would make it worse. Seven percent said the act would have no major effect on their family’s insurance coverage, with an equal number saying they were not sure.

State exchanges. This year, the part of the health-care law that relates most to farmers—the state exchanges, a centerpiece of the law—will start to take shape, with full implementation scheduled for early 2014.

Right now, each farmer is a pool of one, so farmers’ cost of insurance is quite high relative to the cost for people who work for large companies and organizations, says Jon Bailey, director of research and analysis at the Center for Rural Affairs. The state exchanges will work by forming insurance pools of hundreds of thousands of people. As a result, coverage options will increase and rates will go down, Slabach explains.

It’s no different than buying seed. If you buy one bag of seed, you pay a different rate than if you buy a thousand bags. Another key element, in Slabach’s view, is that the state exchanges will make it easier to compare apples to apples when it comes to deductibles and co-pays.

The percentage of Americans who will be insured will increase from about 80% today to a goal of 92% under the new law, contributing to the large pools that will help increase coverage and lower rates.

The state exchanges will have physical brick-and-mortar locations in addition to websites. Farmers can visit these "insurance stores" to discuss price, coverage and other issues with experts who can help them compare policies and plans.

"The exchanges offer a real service to farmers," adds Chandler Goule, vice president of government relations for the National Farmers Union and a strong supporter of the health care act.

While coverage might vary from state to state, Goule says, there will be a minimum coverage requirement.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - January 2013



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