FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 21, 2017
Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
WASHINGTON – Citing the need for family farmers and ranchers to have affordable access to quality health coverage, National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging Congress to vote against the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The bill is scheduled to be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.
NFU President Roger Johnson sent a letter to the members of the House of Representatives today, highlighting NFU’s primary concerns with the proposed legislation. The organization is troubled by the inclusion of a cap on Medicaid, reforms to the healthcare marketplace, and the proposed system of basing premium subsidies on a person’s age, rather than their income.
“NFU’s member-driven policy ‘affirms the right of all Americans to have access to affordable, quality health care,’” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “We believe the American Health Care Act (AHCA) would have serious negative impacts on farmers’ and ranchers’ access to affordable health insurance coverage.”
Johnson noted that while our current healthcare system is not without its problems, the number of insured individuals in the United States has increased by about 13 million since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
“The expansion of Medicaid has proven beneficial to rural communities, where the rate of enrollment is higher than in urban America,” said Johnson. “The Health Insurance Marketplace makes coverage more accessible for many farm families. Tax credits and premium subsidies also help farmers maintain consistent coverage, especially during downturns in the farm economy.”
Johnson pointed out that rural hospitals are more dependent on Medicare and Medicaid payments than their urban counterparts, and the correlation between a strong Medicaid program and the success of rural hospitals has become evident during the influx of rural hospital closures over the last six years.
“Seventy-eight rural hospitals have closed since 2010 with over 80% of those located in states that opted out of the Medicaid expansion,” noted Johnson. “With another 673 hospitals at risk of closure, the AHCA’s proposed Medicaid cap could have devastating consequences for rural communities.”
The AHCA’s proposed system of basing subsidies on age instead of income is particularly troublesome for small farms and younger farmers, noted Johnson. In 2012, 75 percent of farms sold less than $50,000 in agricultural products and 57% had sales less than $10,000. “Young farm families that don’t receive additional income or health benefits from off-farm jobs would find it extremely difficult to purchase health insurance.”
“The proposed legislation would also hurt older farmers,” said Johnson. “The easing of restrictions on what insurance companies can charge older customers will offset the larger subsidies offered to older farmers.”
“Affordable access to quality health coverage is a high priority for all Americans. As you consider how to best improve our healthcare system, we ask that you give serious consideration to the needs of farmers and ranchers. While there is certainly room for improvement in current policy, the American Health Care Act will simply hurt many family farmers and rural communities across the country. NFU requests that you vote no on the proposed legislation.”
An audio file of Roger Johnson’s quote will be available for download shortly at nfu.org/audio.
National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.