Exclusive Survey: Higher Health Costs with Obamacare

Most growers believe health insurance premiums are headed higher

According to a December, 2013 Farm Futures survey of 1,630 farmers, 62% of U.S. farmers believe the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, will cause their health insurance premiums to go up. Only 3% of respondents believed premiums would go down, while 9% of growers believed there would be no change.

Respondents were asked what type of health insurance they carried in 2013 and what type they expected to carry in 2014. In the survey, 29% of farmers say they carried a PPO policy in 2013 and 28% expected to carry the same type of policy this year. About 27% carried a high deductible plan in 2013 and that number stayed the same for 2014. About 16% had an HSA policy in 2013 with no change expected for 2014. About 14% had a government health policy with 15% expecting to hold the same type of health insurance in 2014. HMOs came in next with 9% for 2013 and 2014, followed by 'none' at 5% and 6% for 2014.

The open period for enrolling in the new healthcare marketplace expired at midnight, March 31st. Consumers who began their enrollment through healthcare.gov or the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Call Center and through no fault of their own were unable to complete the process by the deadline have been granted a special enrollment extension.

Those enrolling after March 31st will have to attest that they tried to enroll prior to the end of open enrollment.

The Center for Rural Affairs, Community Catalyst and 299 other organizations called on President Obama’s Administration to create an exception for healthcare consumers who were making a good faith effort to enroll in the healthcare marketplace in a letter sent to HHS Secretary Sebelius on March 20th. HHS took quick action and less than a week later announced the special extension.

Individuals who made an effort to enroll by the deadline and encountered difficulties in the healthcare.gov or Call Center process won’t be responsible for paying the individual mandate penalty for the time they went without coverage. Enrollees who are concerned about falling into this special category can contact the HHS Call Center (800-318-2596) to determine the status of their application.

Much to offer

While much of the conversation has centered on larger communities with multiple health care facilities, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the new program has a lot to offer rural residents.

“Under the old system, rural residents across the country paid more out of pocket expense for their health care. There was a higher level of uninsured people in rural America, which meant that a lot of hospitals and clinics were not getting paid for the services they were providing to these uninsured folks," says Vilsack. "So they either had to shift that cost to the people that did have insurance or they had to basically eat it, which put those clinics and hospitals in financial difficulty.

"With the Affordable Care Act, we’re now going to have more people have access to coverage,” he adds.

Whether it’s a medical professional in a hometown community or a doctor located a couple hours away, Vilsack says there are options for rural families and businesses.

“The policies that are being made available to folks, you have a choice," he says. "You’ll be able to shop around, take a look at what policy might provide the best access, the best care for a price that is affordable. And again, many of the low to mid-income families will be able to receive subsidies, tax credits, and things of that nature, which will reduce the cost."

According to the Farm Futures survey, 43% of farmers currently buy individual or family policies. About 16% get health insurance through an off-farm employer while 17% get insurance through a spouse's off-farm employer. Around 14% have medicare/Medicaid/VA/military coverage.

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