Farmer Urges Congress to Reform Health Care

I am a lifelong resident and livestock farmer from Belgrade, Nebraska. Over the past 50 years, I have watched the population of Nance County decline.
There were once 49 families within two miles of our farm; there are now only five. The remaining family farmers and main street businesses, the economic engines of our community, are struggling. Access to affordable health care is one of the primary causes of their struggle.

As farmers, my wife and I must purchase health insurance coverage in the individual market. The premiums have become so unaffordable that we have considered dropping our coverage in order to meet other expenses. Many farmers and their spouses work off the farm for health insurance. This often prevents farm families from growing their farming operations and developing profitable new enterprises.

Health insurance is unaffordable for others in rural Nebraska as well. In Nance County, the average annual income is around $28,000, while health insurance for a county employee is $12,000. This is simply unsustainable.

Without sufficient competition in the health insurance marketplace, we will continue to struggle because of the high cost of insurance. For farmers, this is a familiar challenge. For decades we have been squeezed by corporate agribusiness, and health insurance monopolies are treating us no better.

America's family farmers, ranchers and rural small business owners are counting on Congress to act decisively to set our health care system back on track. We need competition in the marketplace and regulations that put people before profits.

Jim Knopik is a family farmer, entrepreneur and county supervisor living near Begrade, Nebraska. He farms organically with his son Tom and raises beef, hogs, chickens and turkeys. They direct market their meats through two newly formed cooperatives they helped develop. Jim also serves as a member of the Center for Rural Affairs board of directors. He can be reached at jknopik@hamilton.net or call 402.687.2100 to arrange contact by phone.

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