Farm Bureau offers input on health care | Columnists

Kentucky has a health care crisis that is affecting Kentuckians across all industries, including agriculture. As the unified voice of our member families, the Kentucky Farm Bureau is working to find a solution.

I was in Washington last month testifying about the importance of the 2018 Farm Bill to our rural communities. Now, KFB has another unique opportunity to improve life for our member families and all of Kentucky by fighting for health care reform with one simple priority in mind: reduce costs for consumers.

We applaud Congress for working towards a solution to solve the current health care crisis. The Affordable Care Act took power from patients and states, giving it to the federal government resulting in unmanageable costs and lost options.

There is no doubt reform is needed quickly — reform that is fiscally responsible and leads to a healthier Kentucky. Reforms should give Kentucky more control than the federal government when it comes to health care but most importantly it should give consumers affordable options.

As Washington continues to craft exactly what health care reform looks like, KFB encourages Congress to add a provision that would allow individuals to join together through associations to buy health coverage under an Association Health Plan.

An Association Health Plan allows farmers, including the self-employed, to pool together across state lines through membership in trade or professional associations such as KFB and purchase health coverage for their families and employees. In 1990 there were as many as 1,000 Associated Health Plans. Today, there are less than 200 because of tightening regulations.

What would an Associa­ted Health Plan mean for an organization like KFB? It would mean that if we choose to participate, we would have greater bargaining power when negotiating with insurance companies on behalf of our members. It would reduce premiums and make health insurance more affordable for almost all of our members and their families. Choice and reduction of costs for our members is the goal of any health care reform we support.

Kentucky agriculture provides a dynamic growth opportunity for the Common­wealth. Getting this health care reform legislation right is important to that growth.

Farm families must be able to pay for health insurance, and the costs of that health insurance must not deter them from staying in the agriculture industry, which is a key component of our state’s economy.

As the Kentucky agriculture community works this harvest season to bring food to your table and contribute enormously to the state economy, I request you join the Kentucky Farm Bureau in asking Congress to include a mechanism for an Association Health Plan to become a viable option for our member families and all people across the Commonwealth.

Call 202-224-3121 to let your senators and representatives know that Association Health Plans should be a part of any health care reform legislation.

Mark Haney is president of Ken­tucky Farm Bureau and owner of Haney’s Appledale Farm in Pulaski County. He can be reached at mark.haney@kyfb.com.

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