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January 8, 2009

Farmers and Health Care
Ezra Klein and Steph Larsen, of the Center for Rural Affairs, found a new report from the Access Project that demonstrates, once again, why we need health care reform. Without it, it'll be awfully hard to reform agriculture. Says Ezra:
Small farmers get their health insurance on the individual market. They are not protected by an employer's bargaining power. They do not get to deduct their insurance costs, as employers do. And the individual market is bad, pricey place to get your health insurance. The median amount that farmers on the individual market get paid out-of-pocket for health insurance was $11,200. Those who got their insurance from an employer paid $5,600 out of pocket (they of course paid more out of potential wages redirected to health care, but that's a different sort of burden).
As Larsen adds, "Farming is a dangerous and risky business, and it becomes a whole lot less attractive when a farmer knows that he or she is one fall from the hay loft away from losing their land." It's no mystery that health care concerns play a significant and underestimated role in job decisions for all sorts of people. But its affect on farmers seems especially tragic given the role they play in our society. Talk about biting the hands that feed us. I'd call this sort of societal negligence an isolated incident, but it's not.

Anyway, for those who dream of a thousands strong "New Farmer Corps," which sounds like a great idea to me, or want just to reform agriculture in a meaningful way, it looks like Obama's health care priorities aren't a bad place to start.

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