A new USDA-funded study led by researchers at the University of Vermont surveyed a thousand farmers and ranchers scattered among ten representative states (CA, WA, UT, NE, MI, KY, MS, PA, VT, MA). The survey aimed to find out exactly what the realities and concerns are among workers in the agricultural field about their healthcare in order to better understand the impact of the Affordable Care Act on farmers – and help inform policy going forward.
The findings are pretty grim. Twenty-four percent of farmers aged 18 to 64 purchased a plan on the healthcare exchange, which doesn’t sound like all that much until you learn that 72 percent of farmers are forced to get a second job, primarily for healthcare purposes. With a whopping 64 percent of farmers and ranchers reporting a pre-existing condition, the state of that provision within American healthcare is paramount; almost half of all the farmers and ranchers surveyed are concerned they’ll have to sell land or equipment to pay for healthcare.
Just over half of the farmers surveyed stated that they are not confident they’d be able to afford major illnesses or injuries. Given that agriculture is one of the most dangerous, stressful industries in the country, that concern is magnified. While conducting the survey, farmers told the researchers stories about family or friends who had encountered just that: an injury or illness that completely bankrupted a business, often despite insurance coverage.
The researchers are attempting to create specific policy proposals based around their study’s finding, with the aim of submitting the proposals to USDA and Congress in time for the 2018 Farm Bill. For more information, visit www.hirednag.net.