National Farmers Union highlights how TrumpCare Would Close Rural Hospitals and Put Small Communities at Risk in Letter to Congress

Bustos: “If TrumpCare becomes law, hundreds of rural hospitals could be forced to close their doors”

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, a member of the House Agriculture Committee and Co-Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, released a letter she received from the National Farmers Union (NFU) regarding the damage TrumpCare would inflict on rural and farming communities across our nation.

Among the many points raised in NFU’s letter is the fact that “rural hospitals are more dependant on Medicare and Medicaid payments than their urban counterparts” – and with rural hospitals operating at thin margins, NFU fears what impact TrumpCare will have on 673 vulnerable, rural hospitals.

“If TrumpCare becomes law, hundreds of rural hospitals could be forced to close their doors, putting the health of millions of Americans from small communities across our nation at risk,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. “A lot of rural Americans believed President Trump when he promised there would be ‘insurance for everybody,’ but there is zero doubt that Trumpcare breaks his word. It’s a fact that Americans from rural communities benefit from Medicare and Medicaid at a much higher rate than those from big cities, so if Washington Republicans pass their repeal plan, it’s hardworking families from our heartland who will pay the price. Washington Republicans should abandon their repeal bill and instead work with us to pass a bill that will lower out-of-pocket costs, make prescription drugs more affordable and ensure that our rural hospitals can continue serving small communities across our nation.”

Below is the text of the letter from the National Farmers Union to Members of Congress. You can read a signed copy by clicking here.

 

March 21, 2017

I write on behalf of nearly 200,000 members of the National Farmers Union (NFU) who are engaged in all forms of farming and ranching.  NFU’s member-driven policy “affirms the right of all Americans to have access to affordable, quality health care.” NFU believes the American Health Care Act (AHCA) would have serious impacts on farmers’ and ranchers’ access to affordable health insurance coverage.

Farming is a dangerous occupation, ranking 6th in occupational fatality rates. The injury rate for agricultural workers is also 40% higher than the rate for all workers. Finally, the average age of farmers in the United States is over 58 years. U.S. healthcare policy must take into account the unique needs of the men and women who provide food and fiber for our country and much of the world.

While our current healthcare system is not without its problems, the number of uninsured individuals in the United States has dropped by nearly 13 million since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.  The expansion of Medicaid has proven beneficial to rural communities, where the rate of enrollment is higher than in urban America.  The Health Insurance Marketplace makes coverage more accessible for many farm families. Tax credits and premium subsidies also help farmers maintain consistent coverage, especially during downturns in the farm economy.

Rural hospitals are more dependent on Medicare and Medicaid payments than their urban counterparts. The correlation between a strong Medicaid program and the success of rural hospitals has become evident during the influx of rural hospital closures over the last six years. Seventy-eight rural hospitals have closed since 2010 with over 80% of those located in states that opted out of the Medicaid expansion. With another 673 hospitals at risk of closure, the AHCA’s proposed Medicaid cap could have devastating consequences for rural communities.

The AHCA’s proposed system of basing subsidies on age instead of income is particularly troublesome for small farms and younger farmers.  In 2012, 75 percent of farms sold less than $50,000 in agricultural products and 57% had sales less than $10,000. Young farm families that don’t receive additional income or health benefits from off-farm jobs would find it extremely difficult to purchase health insurance. The proposed legislation would also hurt older farmers. The easing of restrictions on what insurance companies can charge older customers will offset the larger subsidies offered to older farmers.

Affordable access to quality health coverage is a high priority for all Americans. As you consider how to best improve our healthcare system, we ask that you give serious consideration to the needs of farmers and ranchers. While there is certainly room for improvement in current policy, the American Health Care Act will only hurt family farmers and rural communities across the country.  NFU requests that you vote no on the proposed legislation.

We appreciate your efforts to provide all Americans with high-quality comprehensive health insurance.    Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 

Roger Johnson

President

 

**Key lines bolded by Bustos’ office**

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