Union president: State insurance exchanges are good for farmers, other rural residents

Farmers and rural Americans have much to gain from state insurance exchanges under federal health reform, according to a farmers union president.

By Tara Kapowry
Kentucky Health News

Farmers and rural Americans have much to gain from state health insurance exchanges under federal health reform, because “rural residents often have the hardest time getting health insurance,” the president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union argued in an op-ed piece in Madison’s Capital Times.

People who live in rural areas “are predominantly self-employed and run small businesses, with insurance costs too high because of small risk pools,” Darin Von Ruden pointed out. “They often pay way too much for terrible coverage. Some are uninsurable because of the high-risk nature of farming. Many can’t pay high premiums for the current system of individual and family coverage.” Insurance exchanges will “broaden risk pools” and bring down the overall cost, he argues.

Wisconsin has been one of the firmest states against implementing federal health-care reforms, including the exchanges, which will be marketplaces where people can choose from a variety of state-approved health-insurance plans. This month, Republican Gov. Scott Walker said he would not take any action to implement the law until after the November elections. After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky issued an executive order creating a Kentucky exchange. States have the option to run their own exchange or let the federal government do it for them.

Von Ruden said exchanges are “critical” for Wisconsin’s farmers and rural communities. “It’s disappointing, to say the least, that our legislative majority would be dragging their feet on getting this done,” he writes. “I can’t imagine why any of them would want to wait on this. Creating our own state exchanges keeps the control in Wisconsin.” He concludes, “Every American deserves health care that is comprehensive, affordable and accessible, regardless of occupation or geographic area.”

Kentucky Health News is a service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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