In a commentary last year before Christmas, I wished for good cell phone service. While cell phone companies continue to build out 5G technology, my own cell phone coverage has been worse, and I’m still waiting for things to get better.

While I wait for reliable cell phone coverage, I’ve added another item to my wish list – affordable health care for rural Missourians.

This is something that has been on my mind for a long time. As a board member of Ellett Memorial Hospital in Appleton City, I have a pretty good understanding of the pressures rural hospitals face. My family has a long history with our local hospital. In fact, my great uncle converted an old hotel in town into a hospital in the 1930s. Today, Ellett Memorial Hospital serves my community and the surrounding area, providing critical emergency, acute and outpatient services, but it isn’t easy.

Maintaining health care services in rural areas is arguably even more of a challenge now than decades ago. As the cost of health care rises, so do the premiums for health insurance. People are struggling to fit these ever-increasing costs into already tight budgets.

For farm families, difficult decisions are made all the time; health coverage should not be one of them. Everywhere I travel, I hear about this issue from our members. For too many families, someone must leave the farm to work in town – only because they need access to benefits.

Affordable health coverage is a major impediment for the next generation who dreams of returning to the farm full-time, but the cost of insurance keeps them from making the change, or it squeezes margins so tight they can’t invest in their farms, or families. Most nerve-wracking of all, some of our members are uninsured. Not only does this prevent people from seeking preventive health care services, but it leaves their farms and assets at risk, as well as their families.

Our members have had enough and, through our grassroots policy development process, have directed Missouri Farm Bureau to find another option.

In 2024, we will once again pursue state legislation that will allow Missouri Farm Bureau to offer a health plan for individuals under age 65 and their families. These plans are like traditional insurance for both policyholders and medical providers. However, a few key differences allow premiums to cost approximately 30% less than comparable unsubsidized marketplace plans, with competitive deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

This model has been pressure-tested, and these plans are currently offered by eight other state Farm Bureaus. The positive outcome for members in those states is evident, and we can repeat that success in Missouri.

Missouri Farm Bureau has a real solution that will make a real difference in the lives of our members. Frankly, we are the only organization bringing a proven policy forward to help those who have been left behind by federal health policy. All we need is for the Missouri General Assembly to allow us to take care of our members in the way that you want to be taken care of.
Many of our legislators know that health coverage options are needed and hard-working farmers, entrepreneurs and families are struggling, but they need to hear from you.

Yes, I’d like to eliminate my spotty cell phone coverage, but the best Christmas present would be giving Missourians another option to secure affordable, high-quality health coverage.