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NFU: Rural America needs access to quality, affordable health care

National Farmers Union delegates March 10 adopted a special order of business calling on policy makers to consider the unique challenges facing rural America when debating policy solutions to the nation's health care system.

"Rural Americans are uniquely affected by the skyrocketing cost of health care," NFU President Tom Buis said. "Lack of availability and affordability and the often far distances from medical facilities creates significant challenges to securing adequate health care."

Research in multiple Farmers Union states has shown that family farmers and ranchers disproportionately purchase insurance in the non-group market, where insurance generally costs more and provides less coverage. Research also found that health care expenses contributed to financial problems in one in four farm families, and one in five had outstanding medical debt.

National Farmers Union delegates called on policy makers to address the following provisions when considering future health care legislation:

--Provide federal support to rural hospitals to ensure the facilities have the resources necessary to provide high quality and affordable care;

--Ensure access to reasonably priced, comprehensive, quality health insurance that provides individuals and families with real financial protection if they get sick;

--Enhance regulation of the non-group insurance market to prevent insurers from charging exorbitant rates or making insurance unavailable for older people or those with existing health needs;

--Support the development of a public insurance plan that would provide an alternative for individuals currently purchasing insurance in the private, non-group market; and

--Support government programs that expand and maintain the rural health care workforce, with a particular focus on increasing the number of primary care clinicians in rural America.

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