The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis on a scale we haven’t seen before. As those who have the ability and means to self-isolate stay at home, essential workers continue to keep our health care, food, transportation and other systems running. Those who are the most at risk are too often also less likely to have paid sick leave or health insurance. North Carolina could close the coverage gap for over half a million people by expanding Medicaid, using federal funds.
COVID-19, Farmers, & Health Insurance
Family farmers are vulnerable in this crisis in several ways – not only to market disruptions as restaurant, institutional, and farmers market sales dry up, but also because many of them depend on off-farm employment to make ends meet and for health insurance. According to the 2017 Ag Census, over 60% of agricultural producers earn income for off-farm work as well as through their farming operations. This is even more common for beginning farmers – over 80% of producers under 35 hold other jobs. If the family member with off-farm employment is laid off, the whole family may lose coverage while seeing all their income streams impacted by the pandemic.
Farming is the sixth most dangerous occupation. The number one reason that farms go out of business is not a crop failure or a hurricane or export market pressures, it is because someone gets sick or hurt and they can’t pay the medical bills and have to sell the farm or declare bankruptcy because they could not afford insurance.Alex Hitt, former RAFI-USA board president & farmer at Peregrine Farm
RAFI-USA has worked with many farmers in financial crisis, and medical expenses are frequently what cause a farmer who is just making it to get into unmanageable levels of debt. A farmer losing their farm because of medical bills is not simply bad luck; it is a bad system.
Help improve that system by asking the NC House Select Committee on COVID-19 to accept federal funds and expand Medicaid.
The Committee is accepting comments online or you can call Speaker Tim Moore: 919-733-3451 and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger: 919-733-5708 as well as your local legislators.
Here is a sample script; please personalize it and share the message in your own voice:
“As you consider how the General Assembly will take care of North Carolinians during this public health emergency, please act as swiftly as possible to expand Medicaid in NC. During this crisis and beyond, access to health care is critical to protect the health of individuals, their families, and our entire population.
As someone who cares about agriculture in NC, I am also concerned about the pandemic’s impact on family farmers. Many family farmers currently depend on off-farm employment for their health insurance, and if they are laid off due to social distancing, the whole family may lose coverage while seeing all their income streams impacted by the pandemic. Medical expenses are a leading cause of farm loss, and our NC farms are more important now than ever.
Please take advantage of federal funds available and expand Medicaid in NC.”