Tuesday the Senate Finance Committee begins consideration of a draft health care bill submitted by Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. In a letter to members of the committee, American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said health insurance costs are an ongoing and significant expense for farmers and ranchers and must be reduced so they do not burden farm and ranch businesses with costs they cannot afford. Stallman says Farm Bureau supports tax credits to help the self-employed purchase health insurance and to help farm and ranch employers afford insurance for their employees.
Stallman emphasized the importance of competition to reduce health insurance costs and said an exchange where individuals and small businesses can easily compare coverage would be positive for the marketplace. In addition, any health reform legislation passed by Congress must address the critical shortage of health care facilities and qualified health care professionals in rural areas.
Farm Bureau opposes a public option and instead supports voluntary regional health insurance cooperatives. Also, Farm Bureau supports provisions in the bill that increase Medicare reimbursement rates to rural doctors and health care facilities and recommends that proposed programs designed to increase the number of primary care doctors and general surgeons be targeted to underserved areas.