The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has gotten off to a
rocky start, to say the least. The congressional committee hearings are most
Watching bloodthirsty senators grill Health and Human
Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is like happening upon a grisly car
accident: It’s hard to look away.
The website problems are getting much of the attention, but
the unfortunate result is that the act itself — and its negative consequences —
have been pushed to the back burner. That appears to be changing, however, as
the spotlight ramps up the heat on the Obama administration.
The president’s signature legislation — rammed down our
throats with 100 percent partisan support — appears to be flagging, and its
future doesn’t look as bright as it once did to its supporters.
What does all this have to do with agriculture? A lot.
With legislation this far-reaching, virtually every corner
of the nation will somehow feel the effects of this behemoth. Farmers, however,
may be hit more directly.
That’s because the individual mandate requires that everyone
own a health insurance policy or pay a fine. And many farmers — who are
self-employed — either own an individual policy or don’t have any
It’s true that many are on company plans held by their
spouses. But many aren’t.
And that doesn’t touch on the employer mandate to provide
insurance to their employees. The only thing good about the latter is that the
mandate has been delayed for one year.
While it’s difficult to get a handle on the impact of the
act on individual farmers, it seems clear that agribusinesses as a whole are
greeting it with, shall we say, a cool reception.
I recently spoke to fruit and vegetable producers, both of
whom employ 50 or more workers — the minimum that requires employer coverage —
and they were less than happy about the prospect of dealing with this intrusive
Jeff Flamm of Flamm Orchards in Cobden, Ill., and Sarah
Frey-Talley of Frey Farms in Keenes, Ill., both see nothing but trouble with
Obamacare. The problem is exacerbated by the nature of agriculture, where
seasonal work is common.
Ag employers now must perform mathematical acrobatics to
determine which workers, whose hours are spread over a year, are full time and
The end result in agriculture — as with companies in other
industries — will almost certainly be reduction of hours, or of
Many politicians are now calling for a delay of the
individual mandate until parts of the act are fixed. To me, that is akin to
delaying the launch of a leaky ship so that it will sink later.
In my humble opinion, Obamacare is not about health. It’s
not about health coverage. It’s not about health costs.
It’s about government control over individual lives.
Obamacare should be scuttled because it’s full of holes.