Farmers often depend on off farm jobs to provide health insurance, if that wasn’t an option they could generally afford an individual plan. Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in America, heavy machinery, large animals, long hours in the sun, chemicals and that always present independent streak that keeps us from seeing the doctor when we should. Still, we need insurance.
Most jobs are cutting insurance benefits, if the jobs are still there. Individual plans for farmers are expensive with high deductibles since our work is dangerous, we probably have pre-existing conditions and we are nearing an average age of 58 years.
The Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska notes that rural residents are twice as likely to be uninsured as urban Americans while farmers and ranchers are four times as likely to be “underinsured”, covered by insurance with reduced benefits and a high deductibles.
Montana Senator Max Baucus says single payer health care “ is off the table”. Who made him king? What are we, chopped liver, doesn’t our opinion count? A January CBS/New York Times poll showed 59% of respondents favored a national health care plan. A February CNN poll showed 72% favored a government controlled plan. Any issue with that much across the board support should be “on the table”.
It seems especially surprising that Baucus, from Montana, a rural state, one that would benefit most from a single payer plan, is opposed to any discussion. However if one looks at campaign contributions from the health insurance industry to Baucus, we see why he supports the status quo.
The insurance companies, in hopes of killing single payer, say they are willing to cover those with “pre-existing conditions” provided *everyone* buys their health insurance. The the insurance companies dream, every American with an insurance policy and private insurers collecting premiums on another 49 million people. Of course they can still deny payment of claims, they’re good at that.
But they say trust us, we will cut costs, as long as everyone buys a policy from us; but, there will be no competition from a public option.
No competition? Workers and farmers are expected to compete in the world market but insurance companies are afraid to compete against a public option?
Trust us? Trust insurance companies to care about our health over their profits?
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, insurance companies own billions of dollars of tobacco industry stock. Clearly, their motive is profit, not the best interest of the American public.
While health insurance companies downplay their tobacco investments as being only a small percentage of their total investment portfolio, with billions invested in tobacco, one wonders how much money do these guys have, where did they get it and why won’t they pay it to their policy holders when they deserve it?
While New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo investigates industry wide rate manipulation in the health insurance industry, they say trust us. Trust an industry that employs an “army of claim deniers” and administrative personnel whose numbers have grown 25 times faster than the number of physicians in the US over the past 30 years?
They expect us to believe they care about the health of the 49 million uninsured Americans or the 53,000 that die yearly due to denied claims?
A “public option” should be an option, just as public education, transportation, and legal protection are available, but not required.
Some of my neighbors, like many Americans, lack confidence in the governments ability to administer a public health insurance plan. But they are beginning to trust private insurance companies even less. So to legislators who say the public option is off the table, think again, there are 49 million uninsured and 25 million underinsured in America, we may lack health insurance but we can still vote.
JIM GOODMAN is a farmer from Wonewoc WI and a WK Kellogg/IATP Food and Society Policy Fellow.