I don’t normally talk about health insurance on the blog, but with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, I’m really curious to know if anyone has felt the impact — good or bad — on their farms or rural families yet. No doubt health insurance can be a major cost for family farms and employer paid insurance is usually one reason one spouse works off the farm.
The Affordable Care Act, which went into effect on October 1, 2013, had a goal of lowering premiums for rural consumers by increasing competition. Regardless how you feel about that bill originally, this goal isn’t being met.
According to the New York Times, rural America is getting left out:
While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. Those places, many of them poor, are being asked to choose from some of the highest-priced plans in the 34 states where the federal government is running the health insurance marketplaces, a review by The New York Times has found.
Of the roughly 2,500 counties served by the federal exchanges, more than half, or 58 percent, have plans offered by just one or two insurance carriers, according to an analysis by The Times of county-level data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. In about 530 counties, only a single insurer is participating.
The analysis suggests that the ambitions of the Affordable Care Act to increase competition have unfolded unevenly, at least in the early going, and have not addressed many of the factors that contribute to high prices. Insurance companies are reluctant to enter challenging new markets, experts say, because medical costs are high, dominant insurers are difficult to unseat, and powerful hospital systems resist efforts to lower rates.
The premiums have actually gone up in most rural counties, and it’s mostly being felt in the south:
In rural Baker County, Ga., where there is only one insurer, a 50-year-old shopping for a silver plan would pay at least $644.05 before federal subsidies. (Plans range in price and levels of coverage from bronze to platinum, with silver a middle option.) A 50-year-old in Atlanta, where there are four carriers, could pay $320.06 for a comparable plan. Federal subsidies could significantly reduce monthly premiums for people with low incomes.
Personally, I know my parents lost their health insurance plan and have had to switch to a plan with much higher premiums and a lot less benefits (which, ironically, has happened to our firm as well).
So, how has the new health care law effected your farm operation so far?
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.