Farmer says ACA is not affordable for her

A Michigan farmer says the Affordable Care Act is not affordable for her and will double her families’ health care premiums while tripling their deductible.  Theresa Zaluckyj  farms with her husband and two sons in Coloma, Michigan.  They grow corn and soybeans on 2,ooo acres.  She tells Brownfield Ag News she’s always made sure her family is covered but under the new law they would have to pay $2000 a month in premiums with a $12,000 deductible, “We know we can keep our insurance until August. I’m really hoping something will be done by August to change this. If not, I don’t know if we – we’ve talked about going without insurance and, you know, hoping nothing happens.”

She tells Brownfield they are not eligible for a tax break to offset the higher costs…something Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack told Brownfield could help family farmers, “It makes me angry that they aren’t listening to the people that are actually going through this. And when, you know (Senator) Harry Reid says everybody’s liars who have these horror stories, it’s just, it’s really frustrating.”

Interview with Theresa Zaluckyj (6:00 mp3)

Brownfield Ag News – Vilsack says ACA helping rural Americans

 

Rural health care and the new law

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, with its broader health care coverage is going to help rural Americans. Vilsack says, “There are a lot of benefits in this law to folks who live in rural areas and obviously we want folks to take advantage of it. They look on the website, healthcare.gov, they might be surprised that they can find maybe insurance for as little as $100 a month.”

What about smaller farms and agribusinesses concerned about higher employee health care costs? Vilsack says there has been a delay in the implementation for smaller businesses so, in his words, there is time to adjust to the new system, adding, “Secondly, I think there’s also time to learn about the tax credits that are available to businesses. Oftentimes, when people are looking at the cost of healthcare they’re not factoring in the advantageous tax benefits that they get that will reduce the overall cost to them at the end of the day.”

Rural health care facilities, he says, will see relief from this new law,  ”So, with the Affordable Care Act we’re now in a situation where our rural hospitals and clinics can be certain that people coming in for service will have insurance coverage. That will make it a little easier on their bottom line. We won’t see the transfer of responsibility from the uninsured to the insured for payment of health care costs for the uninsured as we did under the old system.”

Vilsakc says older and younger folks in rural America will see added benefits from the law, “Senior citizens, of course, we’ve got a great number of them living in rural communities, they’re going to see lower prescription drug costs. And, young parents on the farm who are wondering what their youngster who’s just graduating from college, or will be, what they’re going to do as they look for work.  They may get a job and may not have health care. They’ll be able to extend their coverage under the parents’ policy for, until the young person reaches age 26.”

Interview with Tom Vilsack, U.S. Ag Secretary (8:00 mp3

Vilsack says ACA helping rural Americans

In an exclusive interview with Brownfield Ag News, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, with its broader health care coverage is going to help rural Americans.  Vilsack says,  “There are a lot of benefits in this law to folks who live in rural areas and obviously we want folks to take advantage of it. They look on the website, healthcare.gov, they might be surprised that they can find maybe insurance for as little as $100 a month.”

But what about the claims from some who say their health insurance costs have risen under Obamacare, we asked? “Unfortunately,” Vilsack says, “Some of these stories that have been used by folks in the public eye turn out to not be correct and the vast majority of the people who are going on the website and doing a search of the various options are finding that their health care costs are actually coming down and the cost of insurance is down.”

The more people who sign up, he says, the further the risk is spread so that costs go down, “I can remember when I was governor of Iowa being told by the folks at then-BlueCross/BlueShield that my insurance premiums were 10 to 15% higher because of the level of uninsured people in my state. Because those folks would get healthcare, they couldn’t pay for it, the cost of it was shifted and transferred to those who could.  So, now, what we have is an evening out of that.”

What about smaller farms and agribusinesses concerned about higher employee health care costs? Vilsack says there has been a delay in the implementation for smaller businesses so, in his words, there is time to adjust to the new system, adding, “Secondly, I think there’s also time to learn about the tax credits that are available to businesses. Oftentimes, when people are looking at the cost of healthcare they’re not factoring in the advantageous tax benefits that they get that will reduce the overall cost to them at the end of the day.”

Vilsack tells Brownfield that once the problems on the Affordable Care Act website were corrected, there has been a significant uptick in applicants.  As of February 1, 2014, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department reported nearly 3.3 million people enrolled in the Health Insurance Marketplace plans.

Interview with Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack (8:00 mp3)

Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

Postal proposal could have been worse

The U.S. Postal Service has announced plans to cut mail delivery on Saturdays and that could overly burden rural Americans, especially senior citizens according to Rhonda Perry, program director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. She concedes that the proposal could have been worse. Perry tells Brownfield Ag News, “I do think that there were earlier proposals that could have been even more damaging.”

The Postal Service says it would save about $2 Billion a year by delivering packages-only on Saturdays. It would maintain its Monday through Friday delivery of ALL mail items.

Perry says there are a high number of senior citizens in rural areas who don’t have internet access and rely on postal delivery of medications through the VA system, “All of those things really add up in terms of a slowdown for people in terms of getting their mail and even critical medicines and medications –so- we are concerned that this will have an inordinate effect on rural communities.”

It’s unclear whether the postal proposal needs Congressional approval. The postal service says its new schedule would begin in early August, 2013.

AUDIO: Rhonda Perry (3:00 mp3)

Noem against postal plan due to rural concerns

South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem says she does not support the US Postal Service’s plan to cut back mail delivery on Saturdays. With South Dakota being a rural state, she says the postal service should review all available options before making decisions that “affect South Dakotans and the rest of rural America.” The proposal would still have packages delivered on Saturdays, just not regular letters and mail.

Noem says she understands the postal service has to take steps to be financially viable but its service is “critical to the way families and businesses operate.”

 

Rural group concerned over postal cuts

The U.S. Postal Service has announced plans to cut mail delivery on Saturdays and that could overly burden rural Americans, especially senior citizens.

Rhonda Perry is program director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. She concedes that the proposal could have been worse.  Perry tells Brownfield Ag News, “I do think that there were earlier proposals that could have been even more damaging.”

The Postal Service says it would save about $2 Billion a year by delivering packages-only on Saturdays. It would maintain its Monday through Friday delivery of ALL mail items.

Perry says there are a high number of senior citizens in rural areas who don’t have internet access and rely on postal delivery of medications through the VA system, “All of those things really add up in terms of a slowdown for people in terms of getting their mail and even critical medicines and medications –so- we are concerned that this will have an inordinate effect on rural communities.”

It’s unclear whether the postal proposal needs Congressional approval. The postal service says its new schedule would begin in early August, 2013.

Rural health care programs extended in fiscal cliff fix

Several rural health care programs were extended in the fiscal cliff bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama that also extended the farm bill for one year. Garrett Hawkins, national legislative director for the Missouri Farm Bureau, tells Brownfield Ag News that the Low-Volume Hospital Program and the Medicare-Dependent Hospital Program have also been extended for a year.

“Both are really aimed at trying to help provide stability to small, especially rural hospitals and, ultimately, continue to have that access there to health care especially that’s so important to seniors,”  Hawkins tells Brownfield Ag News.

AUDIO: Garrett Hawkins (4:00 mp3)

Rural health care programs in fiscal cliff bill

There’s not been much talk about it but several rural health care programs were extended in the fiscal cliff bill passed by Congress that also extended the farm bill for one year.  Garrett Hawkins, national legislative director for the Missouri Farm Bureau, tells Brownfield Ag News that the Low-Volume Hospital Program and the Medicare-Dependent Hospital Program have also been extended for a year.

“Both are really aimed at trying to help provide stability to small, especially rural hospitals and, ultimately, continue to have that access there to health care especially that’s so important to seniors,” says Hawkins.

The fiscal cliff bill also extended the Medicare Physician Payment provision which prevents reductions in Medicare payment rates and guarantees continued access for seniors to their doctors which Hawkins says most people are aware of.

While Hawkins says farm bureau members have concerns about the federal Affordable Care Act (‘ObamaCare’), rural health care needs to be part of the discussion.

“The health care debate is far from over and we should be having these discussions,” Hawkins tells Brownfield, “And, they’re important because as we talk about the federal deficit and the growing federal debt we need to figure out what the priorities are. And, for rural areas, having that access to health care is extremely important.”  Hawkins says the Missouri Farm Bureau supports quality, affordable, accessible health care for all rural Americans.

AUDIO: Garrett Hawkins (4:00 mp3)

Rural medical program towns selected

Five South Dakota towns have been chosen for the first clinical sites for the University of South Dakota’s medical school to expand health care into rural areas.

The Sanford School of Medicine’s Frontier and Rural Medicine or FARM program has picked Milbank, Mobridge, Winner, Platte and Parkston – each town has fewer than 10-thousand people.

Medical students will be picked in the coming months for nine months’ clinical training in those areas. FARM program director, Dr. Susan Anderson says there’s a lot of excitement about the program that will expose students to the rewards of practicing medicine and living in a rural community. Students will have to design and implement a program to address a local health concern.

The goal is to increase the number of doctors who practice in rural South Dakota.

Meeting the need for rural physicians

In terms of health care, rural communities are often underserved.  According to Mark Meurer with the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rural Medical Education program, 82 percent of Illinois’ rural counties are considered underserved.  With approximately 500 doctors in rural Illinois at or near retirement age, he says there is a need for primary care physicians in rural areas.

One of the goals of RMED, Meurer says, is to recruit students from the state of Illinois with rural backgrounds.  “They have to be rural,” he says.  “We have a phrase we use – it’s called ‘ruralality’ – and we have to have students in our program that understand what it’s like to grow up in a rural community.”

UIC’s RMED program is one of a few rural medical programs nationally that has curriculum that spans all four years of medical school.  “Our students will go to class with everyone else at the University of Illinois College of medicine,” he says, “they receive the same exact medical school education as all other graduates.”  The difference is, Meurer notes, “Our students also take a supplemental curriculum that focuses on issues that are more pertinent to rural doctors.”

The RMED program was established in 1993 and has graduated 211 students. Meurer says currently there are 164 graduates still practicing – 118 of them in Illinois.