High Cost Of Care Causing Financial Strain For Farmers, Ranchers

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The high cost of health care premiums and out-of-pocket expenses arecausing financial difficulties for more than 25% of family farmers andranchers, according to a report released on Thursday, the AP/Des Moines Register reports. For the 2007 Health Insurance Survey of Farm and Ranch Operators, researchers from the University of North Dakota's Center for Rural Health, Brandeis University and The Access Projectanalyzed responses from telephone surveys of more than 2,000 farmersand ranchers in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, NorthDakota and South Dakota.

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The report found that 90% of thosesurveyed had health insurance. Twenty percent of farmers and ranchershad outstanding medical debt, and one in six postponed physician visitseither because of cost, high medical debt or a heavy workload, thestudy found. Ten percent of respondents said that at least one familymember was uninsured at some point during 2006, and of those people,most said that the period of uninsurance was because of cost. About 36%of farmers and ranchers surveyed said they have private insurancepolicies; 10% said they are enrolled in a public insurance program; and54% said they receive health insurance through other employment or aspouse.

According to the report, "For farmers and ranchers,health care expenses have the potential to affect not only theirfamilies' economic security, but the financial viability of theirbusinesses, which in turn may impact the larger economy."

Co-authorBill Lottero of The Access Project said that "it's clear that themiddle-class folks with health insurance are feeling the pinch ofspiraling premiums and medical costs." Alana Knudsen, a co-author fromthe rural health center, said that policy solutions are needed "toensure that farm and ranch operators and other small-business ownersare able to pay for health care services in their rural communities" (AP/Des Moines Register, 9/6).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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