As the Senate vote on the American Healthcare Act quickly approaches, many concerns remain among Americans as to what this repeal and/or replacement of Obamacare entails. Drawing from University of Vermont sociologist Shoshanah Inwood’s research, a recent article from Vermont Public Radio suggests that healthcare affordability is a top concern among farmers concerned about the viability of their business.
In 2017, Inwood conducted a survey with more than 1,000 farmers from 10 states. Her findings indicate that 23 percent of the farmers surveyed bought a plan on the health exchange marketplace. Nationally, nearly three-quarters of farmers live with a household member who has an outside job to contribute additional income and healthcare benefits. Farmers are also older—the average national age is 58—so they face a heightened risk of increased premiums.
As Inwood’s survey findings demonstrate, more than half of farmers surveyed stated that they “are not confident they could pay the costs of a major illness such as a heart attack, cancer or loss of limb without going into debt.” Farmers’ appear to be so unsettled by healthcare prices that 74 percent in Inwood’s survey takers indicated that the U.S. Department of Agriculture should advocate for their health concerns in national policy discussions. Thus, the shaky future of healthcare costs looms large over the future of agriculture in the U.S. Inwood states,
“And with all of the pressures that are already existing on farm businesses, and with many operating on very razor-thin margins, health insurance could become the straw that breaks the camel’s back…There’s an opportunity to talk about how do farmers fit into national health insurance policy, but also what mean for the 2018 farm bill coming up.”