The Healthcare Status Quo is Not Acceptable

NOTE: Land Stewardship Project member Leslea Hodgson spoke at the HEALTHCARE-NOW conference in Minneapolis in June. LSP participated in the conference, which focused on organizing a grassroots movement around the principles of a healthcare system in which everyone is in and no one is left out. Below is an excerpt of her talk.

I have issues with the status quo healthcare system.

Together my husband and I graze cattle, sell beef and run a cabinet shop on our farm in southeastern Minnesota. Before we began farming and working independently, we had "jobs" that provided partial cost-share on a group insurance policy.

After 15 years of struggling to farm and work off the farm, we decided to dedicate our energies to our own enterprises—raising livestock and building cabinets in the shop we put up. Because the cattle herd had grown and the cabinet shop business had picked up, we realized that to properly care for our livestock and fill the woodworking orders, we both had to be there working on the farm.

Working for ourselves meant buying healthcare insurance on the individual market, which we did for about three years until the deductible was raised without our consent. Also, the premiums rose close to 25 percent in one year alone.

We have each tried since then to take an off-farm job to get health insurance, but we could only afford to cover one of us. If we got coverage for both of us, it would take so much out of our paycheck to pay the premium that we would literally be working to pay for healthcare insurance, with nothing left over for any other expenses, such as the fuel it takes to drive to a job.

So we purchased a policy through the individual market that had such high premiums and high deductibles that we could never actually afford to go to the doctor. Or if we did go to the doctor, we would go into debt.

It felt like we were being ripped off and our premiums were not being used to help us. The policy was the type insurance companies would like many of: money for nothing.

So we decided to go with the "nothing" option and discontinued insurance for a time. A farm accident or serious health problem would have ruined us during this time of going without insurance. In 2014 we found out about MinnesotaCare and qualified for good, comprehensive insurance with no deductible—and at a low premium cost.

We couldn't find that type of policy on the open market, and the high-deductible, high-premium and out-of-pocket policies they call affordable are not healthcare at all—they are just catastrophic care. That kind of policy will leave us open to huge medical debt, bankruptcy and losing what we have worked hard to build.

We need solutions for everyone, no matter who you are or where you are. I hope we can make a change—it's unfair what's happening. Organizing like what we do at the Land Stewardship Project to build power is how we won MinnesotaCare and is how we must win Minnesota healthcare for all!

Leslea Hodgson is a member of LSP's Healthcare Organizing Committee. A video of her HEALTHCARE-NOW presentation is available here (Leslea begins speaking at the 8:10 mark).