пятница, 14 сентября 2012 г.

Into the Boots of Farmers - The Washington Post

According to a reputable economist and a 'broad range' of hiscolleagues, 'To link the {Clinton} health program to competitivenessis just silly' {'Health Reform's Competitiveness Case: Oversold?'Business, Nov. 7}.

Perhaps if these economists could, for a day, step out of theiremployer-provided health care plans and into the boots of a wheatfarmer in the Nebraska panhandle, they would see the issue with a newclarity.

It's not uncommon these days for a farmer to pay as much as $6,000for family health insurance, and it's probably not much of a policyat that, with sizable deductibles, co-payments, a narrow benefitspackage etc.

To get that $6,000, the farmer - like any self-employed person -has to generate a good deal more in business income, since the farmerfirst has to pay a Social Security self-employment tax (a 15.3percent bite), federal income tax, various state assessments and soon in order to have the residual cash for the policy premium. Infact, rapidly rising health care costs are the main reason whyagriculture lenders who assumed $12,000 for family-living expenseswhen doing cash-flow analyses on farm-operating loans just a fewyears ago now regularly plug in $25,000 for the same items.

How does this relate to international competitiveness? Directly.The wheat farmer in the European Community, Canada or Australia andthe rice farmer in Japan enjoy government-sponsored health care.Sure, foreign farmers pay for it in the form of higher income taxes -but only if they have income. By contrast, American grain farmersface up-front, out-of-pocket costs for health care - even if a 60-second hail storm pounds the year's crop to stubble.

For our farmers, health insurance is a cost of doing business -one that foreign competitors don't have to worry about as they eyethe cutthroat world-grain prices, defend their own domestic farmprice-support system or decide whether to remain in farming. Thatmakes health care a competitive issue. BOB KERREY

U.S. Senator (D-Neb.)

Washington