WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Farm Bureau Monitoring the Health Care Debate

Macomb, IL – Like many businesses and organizations, the Illinois Farm Bureau and its county offices are keeping a close eye on the health care debate in Washington.

But McDonough County Farm Bureau Manager Sarah Grant says the group has not taken a stance on the issue. "The Illinois Farm Bureau Board has been discussing it and following it closely," says Grant. "We have staff that is paying attention to that issue. The American Farm Bureau actually hasn't taken a position. There are so many different things going on in Congress right now. Right now we are just monitoring it and seeing what's going to happen."

Grant says 20% of Americans live in rural areas, but only 9% of medical facilities and doctors are in rural areas. She says the hope is there will be incentives in the health care bill to bring more doctors to rural America.

Grant says the Illinois Farm Bureau has two programs in place to help attract medical professionals to rural areas. "The Illinois Farm Bureau has always felt that we need more medical professionals in rural America," Grant says.

"The Rural Nurse Practitioners Program provides scholarships to nurses that become practitioners in rural areas. They have to agree to practice in a rural area for a certain amount of time. There's also a program that has been around since 1948 and provides low interest loans to students going in to the medical profession."

Grant also says most farmers buy their health insurance on the open market. She says that can be rather expensive. "I know I've heard of a family of three, relatively healthy, paying over $8,000 a year in health care premiums," says Grant. "That's unimaginable."

"Other situations are around where maybe a spouse works off the farm and they have benefits through their job, or maybe even the farmer has an off-the-farm job," says Grant.