The Minnesota HealthCare Financing Task Force is meeting today to vote on recommendations by the work groups, which will then be sent on to the state Legislature. I am especially concerned about the much-needed recommendation to increase MinnesotaCare eligibility from 200 percent (current level) to 275 percent of the federal poverty level, which is the maximum level the Task Force is considering. This issue affects my family as we currently qualify for MinnesotaCare. It is an issue for other Land Stewardship Project farmer-members as well.
As a self-employed farmer, I sell cut flowers to florists, a grocery store and farmers’ markets. Our design studio sells our flowers and services for weddings, corporate events and special occasions. We also sell shiitake mushrooms to a local food co-op and at the farmers’ market. My husband works for a small company that is on contract with FedEx, and he receives no health benefits.
Our current annual income is very close to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $31,460 per year for a household of two people. As we try to grow our farm business incrementally, we realized that health care expenses would not follow the same slope. On MinnesotaCare, we have an annual premium of $1,464 per year, no deductible, and reasonable co-pays for medications, office visits, etc.
My research on MNsure shows that if we were to make $32,000 per year (a $540 increase), we would no longer qualify for MinnesotaCare. Subsequently, our healthcare costs would rise significantly and disproportionately compared to our income. The annual health insurance premium of $1,980 per year after subsidies is still affordable for $32,000 of household income per year.
However, three silver plans I’ve found on the MNsure exchange all have deductibles of $6,850 for one individual and maximum out-of-pocket costs of $13,700 per year for the two of us. This amount is in addition to the premium, making for a total annual cost of $15,680. That would be almost half of our annual income. There is no more affordable plan offered on MNsure. So, if we were to need our insurance for an emergency, hospital stay or chronic, long-term illness, we would not be able to pay the bill. Hence, this is why so many families with a medical issue suffer a bankruptcy. And there would go my livelihood.
As The Land Stewardship Project works to encourage and keep more farmers on the land, access to affordable and quality healthcare is a significant and real issue. Prosperous, diverse, and locally owned businesses are needed for rural communities to thrive. The HealthCare Financing Task Force has an opportunity to recommend to the Legislature to expand MinnesotaCare so that businesses like ours and others in rural Minnesota can grow and not be inhibited by exponential healthcare costs.
Barb Pumper is self-employed and a long-time member of LSP. She desires a fair healthcare system that recognizes that all persons have different talents and abilities, yet all are not paid equally. For more on LSP’s Affordable Healthcare for All work, click here.