Word on Wheat: Our Two Cents on Health Care Policy

September 4, 2009 Bookmark and Share

Karl Scronce, NAWG President

While the issue getting the most attention in rural America this August was climate change legislation, another big policy debate is looking us square in the eye: health care.

Health care is expected to be Congress’ and President Barack Obama’s top priority coming out of the summer recess. How they will tackle that bear is unclear, but there’s no question the health care debate is going to be hot and heavy; almost any day this month, you could turn on the TV and see the outcry at town halls and public forums held by Members of Congress in their districts.

As is often the case in Washington, if you don’t make your voice heard, you are forgotten in the noise of a very emotional and very political debate. So, this week, I wrote Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-Texas) to communicate our priorities for any health care legislation.

Wheat growers in NAWG’s 20 affiliated associations are by definition rural businesses, often small and operated within an extended family. Any new law in this area could significantly impact the quality and affordability of their care.

Our policy on health care sets forth the following goals:

1) We support allowing farmers to form health insurance purchasing cooperatives. This ability should help provide incentives for reasonable premiums.

2) We support allowing a full deduction from self-employment tax calculations for health insurance premiums paid for self-employed individuals and their families.

3) We oppose any government mandated plan that would require employers to provide basic health insurance for all employees. The cost of this provision would result in much higher costs for farm businesses and would probably lead to a reduction in farm employment and/or increased consolidation of farms.

4) We oppose any government mandated health care plan that would not allow for choice of coverage, plan or providers.

As with all policy areas, our opinions on health care proposals and goals for any eventual legislation are subject to modification in the face of changing conditions.

But, we believe these concepts truly are “common sense” ideas that can be part of a larger solution to the health care issues we face across the country, while addressing the unique needs of rural businesses and farmers.

– Scronce is a wheat producer from Klamath Falls, Ore.