The high cost of healthcare is a financial burden for dairy farmers with limited or no health insurance. Unfortunately, these daunting expenses can prevent people from getting the care they need and financially affect the development of the farm business.
Some farmers rely on health insurance provided from an off-farm occupation, but that is not an option for everyone. Other farmers may have a healthcare plan but be underinsured, still leaving them at financial risk if problems arise.
If you are in the market for health insurance or wish to re-evaluate your healthcare options, now is a good time to do that. During a “Talking Total Farmer Health” podcast, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension educator Maria Pippidis explained that open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace is open now though January 15.
The Health Insurance Marketplace is a good place to start for people under the age of 65. People can visit healthcare.gov to check out their options. Pippidis said insurance navigators in each state are available to answer questions, either online or over the phone.
To get started, people will need to input information such as their address, employer information, an income estimate, and health-related questions such as whether or not they smoke. These factors are used to estimate the monthly premium.
Before choosing a plan, Pippidis encouraged listeners to think about how they use healthcare resources, such as how often they go to the doctor or if they have certain specialists they need to see. “You want to be sure the plans you pick offer those services,” she emphasized.
She also encouraged people to pay close attention to the deductible and out-of-pocket expenses. “Often, people choose a plan based on premium alone,” she said. “If you pick something with a low premium, there will be other out-of-pocket costs and the deductible will be really high. You will have to pay that deductible before insurance kicks in.”
She encouraged people to map out their expected needs and the out-of-pocket costs and reminded them that a high deductible doesn’t work for everyone. “You need to be able to go to the doctor when you need to go to the doctor,” she said. She also noted that some doctors may be considered out of network in a plan and not covered.
Pippidis pointed out the importance of mental health coverage, too. “Farmers are so stressed, which can lead to mental well-being issues, so you want to be sure a plan covers behavioral health with access to mental health resources,” she said. Pippidis noted that all plans are required to have an 8-page summary document that can be used to help sort through the options.
For readers 65 years and older, Pippidis shared that the open enrollment period is ending on December 7. People can also sign up for Medicare during the three months before or after their 65th birthday.
Pippidis said that every state has a Senior Health Insurance Program, also known as SHIP. Trained volunteers are available through this program to help people better understand Medicare and the supplemental options, she said.
If evaluating health insurance options is on your to-do list, don’t miss this window of open enrollment to check out your possible options. The Healthcare Insurance Marketplace is available online at healthcare.gov or by phone at 1-800-318-2596.