Tuesday, April 17, 2012

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Farm Bureau Opposes Health Insurance Mandates

Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation recently filed comments with the House Ways and Means Committee expressing opposition to the individual and employer health insurance mandates in the health care reform law enacted last year. The committee’s Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on the mandate’s impact on small businesses.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act penalizes farm and ranch businesses with 50 or more “full-time equivalent” employees if they do not provide government-prescribed health insurance, or if certain employees receive a tax credit and purchase insurance through state-regulated health insurance exchanges.

“Farm Bureau is opposed to mandates that require individuals to have health insurance and that require employers to provide it for their workers,” AFBF said in its written comments. “Most farmers and ranchers are self-employed and buy health insurance for themselves and their workers through individual and small group markets. Coverage mandates accompanied by penalties for noncompliance will only make a difficult situation worse for people already unable to afford coverage.”

There is also uncertainty about whether affordable, short-term coverage will be available for temporary or seasonal agricultural workers, AFBF said. AFBF also was one of several organizations that sent a letter in late March to the Ways and Means Committee chairman and ranking member in support of the American Job Protection Act (H.R. 1744), which would repeal the employer mandate.

The subcommittee’s hearing may inform a debate later this year over rewriting the health care law, in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the health insurance mandates. The court in late March heard oral arguments in a legal challenge brought by several states against the mandates. The court will render its decision this summer.

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