Farm Group Says Graham-Cassidy Bill Will Hurt Farmers, Ranchers, and Rural Health Care
The proposed Graham-Cassidy bill, if it became law, would harm farm and ranch families by affecting their access to quality, affordable health coverage, says Dr. Dale McCall, president of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. The farm group is urging Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming senators and representatives in Washington, D.C., to vote no on the legislation and to begin a bipartisan approach to improving the nation’s health care system.
“Our member-driven policy affirms the right of all Americans to have access to affordable and available quality health coverage,” Dr. McCall says. “The Graham-Cassidy bill does not address the barriers that farmers and ranchers and their rural friends and neighbors face in accessing affordable quality coverage: it would only make matters worse.”
The cost of health care has long been a primary concern of farmers and ranchers. Producers are more likely to sustain injuries in their daily work and often live farther away from emergency care facilities than the average American. Farmers and ranchers also endure higher levels of stress than many workers in other industries. A recent USDA-funded study found that nearly three out of four farmers and ranchers report health insurance is an important risk management strategy for their operation.
As presented, the Graham-Cassidy plan would eliminate tax credits, cost-sharing reductions, and subsidies to offset out-of-pocket costs. Each of these provisions is critical to making health care more affordable for family farmers and ranchers. Allowing insurance companies to charge older customers five times as much as younger customers would also be particularly troublesome for farmers who, on average, are 58 years of age.
RMFU is extremely concerned about how the bill would impact the non-group marketplace. The plan would create even more uncertainty in the marketplace, forcing insurance companies to raise premiums. The loss of marketplace subsidies in 2020 would exacerbate the problem, leaving the marketplace far more unstable than it is currently. “Our states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming would then be left with the challenge of devising their own market-stabilizing plans in the face of annual budget decreases,” Dr. McCall says.
The Graham-Cassidy bill would make it easier to deny farm and ranch families important protections and services. Two-thirds of farmers and ranchers report having a pre-existing condition. The current requirement for insurance plans to cover 10 essential health benefits categories is particularly crucial for making prescription drugs, preventive services, and rehabilitative services affordable for family farmers and ranchers. The current prohibitions on lifetime and annual limits are also important protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions. “The Graham-Cassidy amendments to the 1332 waiver would have disproportionate negative impacts on family farmers and ranchers and other rural citizens,” adds Dr. McCall.
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is strongly opposed to a per capita cap or block grant form of funding Medicaid, as Medicaid enrollment is higher in rural communities than in urban areas, and rural hospitals are more dependent on Medicaid payments than their urban counterparts. The correlation between a strong Medicaid program and the success of rural hospitals has become evident. Over 70% of the 82 rural hospitals that have closed over the last six years are in states that opted not to expand Medicaid. The cap to Medicaid funding would endanger rural hospitals even further.
“RMFU believes the lack of transparency in this process is unacceptable. The Graham-Cassidy plan would have far-reaching impacts on farmers, ranchers, and all Americans. Yet, there have been limited hearings on this bill and there will be no opportunity for a mark-up,” Dr. McCall says. “This process has robbed farmers and ranchers and other rural citizens the opportunity to make their voices heard.”
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is a general farm organization, whose 22,000 members make a living farming and ranching in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The organization, founded in 1907, focuses on educational, cooperative, and legislative tools to build a better future for agriculture.
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