Nebraska farmers, ranchers and others who purchase health care insurance direct from an insurer are seeing significantly higher premiums, deductibles and, in many cases, significantly higher overall costs associated with purchasing health care coverage due to implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The findings come through a non-scientific survey of Nebraska Farm Bureau members.
In less than a week, more than 700 people responded to the NFBF survey inquiring about changes in member's health care premiums, deductibles, overall costs and thoughts about ACA implementation, says Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president and farmer from Axtell. Respondents were asked to report whether they received health insurance through an employer or by directly purchasing through the open market. While most respondents who obtain health insurance from an employer indicated they were not yet certain of how the ACA would affect them, 75% of respondents who purchase health care coverage through the individual market reported higher costs, some significantly higher, in the form of higher premiums, deductibles or overall expenses.
"A large number of farmers, ranchers and others who do not get their health insurance from an employer purchase their health insurance through the open market," Nelson says. "We've been concerned for a long time that mandating certain kinds of health care coverage would increase the cost of health insurance for these individuals. The implementation of ACA is proving those concerns were well founded."
Under the ACA, farmers, ranchers and others who purchase their insurance in the individual market are required to purchase coverage for all ACA mandated coverages, such as maternity and mental health.
"Health insurance out of pocket costs are typically much higher for those that are self-employed and have to buy the coverage on their own," Nelson says. "They do not have the benefit of their employer paying for part of their coverage. As a result, the ACA mandates and rules have a much greater impact on the price they pay for insurance. The survey has provided us with numerous examples that show ACA has raised health coverage costs on people in these situations."
The survey responses show a wide array of impacts from ACA implementation.
"One of the reoccurring comments from survey respondents is that monthly premiums have climbed, and in some cases the premiums have doubled. In other cases some respondent's premiums may have stayed flat or even decreased, but they now have a deductible that is two or three times what they had under their previous insurance plan. Other comments we received indicate co-insurance amounts have also increased, exposing respondents to considerably higher out-of-pocket expenses," says Nelson.
Survey results also showed some differences in costs among age groups. While higher costs were reported across the age spectrum, survey respondents under the age of 50 were far more likely to report higher overall health insurance costs.
In addition to asking members about costs, the Nebraska Farm Bureau survey asked for general comments about the ACA and health care reform. Of those responding to the survey, 50% provided some kind of general comment about ACA. Of those commenting, 90% of the comments would be regarded as negative towards ACA.
"When you have self-employed individuals commenting that their monthly health care premium now exceeds their monthly mortgage payment and individuals over 50 years of age being required to pay for unneeded options like maternity coverage, it clearly points out ACA has major flaws that need to be addressed," according to Nelson.