The legal battles are mostly complete on health care, but key elements of the law are still uncertain.
The legal battles are mostly complete on health, although legislative battles remain, with the health care act a hot campaign issue. As a result, key elements of the barely-two-year-old law still are uncertain, pending whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge of Congress and the White House following this November’s election.
For now, though, the law remains intact. One of the key provisions in the law for farmers is that of the state exchanges, which is scheduled to be implemented in 2014, as are other key provisions.
"In theory, that should make health insurance cheaper for farmers," says Jon Bailey, director of research and analysis for the Center for Rural Affairs. That’s because farmers and ranchers in each state, instead of being a pool of one, can join many others in the state in pools, he says. State exchanges will, theoretically at least, make it easier for farmers and other businesspeople to compare policies and prices, Bailey says. In addition, some states are forming health insurance co-ops that farmers may be able to take advantage of.
Another element of the law, for adults, is that insurance companies no longer can discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions. This begins in 2014. The law also allows children to remain on health insurance until age 26. The much-discussed and debated mandate part of the law, Bailey says, will not really affect many farmers and ranchers, because most carry health insurance. The exchanges also subsidize health insurance premiums depending on income levels.
Also beginning in 2014, farmers with 50 employees or more will be required to provide insurance, one mandate part of the bill, says Pat Wolff, director, tax and rural development, American Farm Bureau Federation. She notes that farmers with 25 or fewer employees who provide health insurance qualify for a tax credit under the new law that’s been upheld, providing they pay an average wage of less than $50,000 per year, and pay at least half of their employee health insurance premiums. For tax years 2010 through 2013, the maximum credit is 35% for farmers and other small business owners. This increases to 50% in 2014.