What’s the story?
- Deep within the House version of the massive farm bill is a provision to provide farmers with cheaper – and less comprehensive – health insurance plans than those currently offered through the Affordable Care Act.
How would the plans work?
- Associations of ranchers and farmers would be able to obtain grants or loans from the Department of Agriculture to establish agricultural-related policies modeled after association health plans (AHPs).
- The House bill would allocate $65 million over four years for these programs.
What are critics saying?
- Unlike Obamacare policies, association – or “cooperative” – plans aren’t required to cover pre-existing conditions and "essential health benefits" such as maternity care, mental health care, or addiction treatment.
- The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has warned that AHPs "threaten the stability of the small group market" and "provide inadequate benefits and insufficient protection to consumers."
- This led Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to remark, at a Senate Finance hearing on co-ops in January 2016, that:
“Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost or will lose their health insurance, and taxpayers are still on the hook. In some ways, the co-ops were doomed to fail from the outset…they were limited to less profitable markets, had no historical claims data and no brand recognition or trust.”
What are supporters saying?
- Rob Robertson, chief administrator for the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, whose group is considering sponsoring an AHP, told NPR that half of his members have significant others working non-farm jobs just to obtain health insurance. And some members who do buy their own insurance are looking for relief from their massive premiums.
"We think it’s a good idea," Robertson said. "I can't think of any sector that is affected more by the huge premium increases under Obamacare than farmers and ranchers.”
What do you think?
Do you support the farm bill and the AHP provision? Hit Take Action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.
(Photo Credit: Zoran Zeremski / iStock)
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