US Health Reforms: How Do They Affect Farmers?

US - America’s farmers have important decisions to make – both for their families and for their employees – with the Affordable Care Act, which came into effect on 1 October.
calendar icon 2 October 2013
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“On the whole, farmers are more likely to be insured than the rest of the US population,” said Roberta Riportella, the Kansas Health Foundation’s professor of Community Health at Kansas State University.

“This is not surprising given that farm work is hazardous with many potential occupational injuries. Purchasing health insurance and disability insurance is viewed by many farmers as essential elements in protecting their family farms.”

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is now federal law that requires all Americans to have health insurance. One provision of the law is set up as a ‘marketplace’ through which individuals can make decisions on what’s best for them.

“Because premiums in the individual health insurance market are rated based on the individual’s own risks, they have been exceptionally high for farmers,” said Barbara O’Neill, an extension specialist in financial resource management at Rutgers University.

The new law, Ms O’Neill added, makes it more likely that “farm families will be able to purchase less expensive coverage.”

A challenge for farmers, however, is that many will have to make insurance decisions for their families and their business.

Farms with less than 50 employees will not be required to provide insurance, and thus will not face government penalties, Ms O’Neill said.

But, she adds, “tax credits are available to help the smallest employers (less than 25 employees) pay for the cost of employee health insurance.”

O’Neill added that a mandate for large farms (more than 50 employees) to provide health care coverage is currently delayed. So fines, which could be as much as $3,000 for every employee, will not be imposed until January 2015.

Professor Riportella shared three tips to help farm families make decisions about insurance coverage for themselves and their employees:

  • Compare the cost and features of your current insurance with those in the new insurance ‘marketplace.’ State-based navigators and insurance agents can assist farmers in making decisions on personal insurance. “If you are considering insurance for your farm business, consult an insurance broker, employment law attorney, certified financial planner or others you trust,” she said.
  • Consult with a professional farm advisor to develop an action plan for the business.
  • Allow enough time to shop around and select insurance coverage that is both affordable and adequate.

Additional information to help farmers make decisions is available on the government’s official web site.

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