Tribune-Star Readers' Forum

It is time to fix health care for family farmers

As a farmer from Vigo County and a board member of Indiana Farm Bureau, I’ve participated in countless discussions at the local and state level about the impact rising health care costs are having on farming operations. This is an important initiative to help Hoosier farmers. Here’s our story:

Agriculture is a respected tradition in Indiana and for two centuries, family farms have been the economic and cultural backbone of rural communities across our state. It is a status fostered by fertile soil and fair weather but more important earned by generations of farmers who have passed along the bedrock virtues of a strong work ethic combined with common sense and unbridled optimism. These generations of farm families comprise an unbroken line that connects our state with our past — and future, but it is being threatened.

Today, more and more farmers’ ability to pass on their operation to their sons or daughters is being threatened not by falling commodity prices or failing foreign markets, but by the skyrocketing cost of health care which is severely impacting the financial stability of the family farm and rural communities.

Due to a loophole in the Affordable Care Act, access to affordable health benefits has been elusive for many farmers because they operate their businesses as sole proprietors, leaving them stuck in the middle with few affordable options. Unless they work off the farm, they cannot obtain benefits from their employers. As sole proprietors without employees, they do not have access to the small group plans offered by many business associations.

The result is not surprising. Too many farm families choose not to obtain health benefits at all, leaving them vulnerable to not only health problems but also the weight of high medical bills or bankruptcy. Our farmers deserve a more affordable option.

In order to attract and retain the next generation of farm families in our state, we need to remove any roadblocks that are preventing agriculture from becoming a viable career option — and research has shown that health care is a top concern.

Farmers have always worked together to address problems that impact their entire community. The problem is that there is no practical solution in Indiana today for providing innovative and affordable health benefits for sole proprietors. To secure the future of rural health in Indiana, legislative change is needed.

That’s why on behalf of their tens-of-thousands of farmer members, Indiana Farm Bureau is working directly with legislators to address these out of control health care costs. If successfully passed, Senate Bill 184 will create the regulatory framework necessary for Indiana Farm Bureau to offer high quality, non-insurance and more affordable health benefits to its members that fulfill a critical need today.

After initial acceptance, members could never be denied coverage as long as they remain a member and pay their premiums — offering peace of mind for the countless members who lack options today. These benefits would be underwritten by Indiana Farm Bureau, an organization that for over 100 years has worked to create solutions for Hoosier farmers.

Indiana farm families feed and fuel the world and they deserve access to affordable health care options. It is time to fix health care for Hoosier farmers today and for the next generation with the passage of Senate Bill 184.

— Jeff Gormong

Farmersburg

District 7 Director

Indiana Farm Bureau

1,000 internships — and counting

In the waning hours of 2019, Indiana INTERNnet (IIN) officially reached the milestone of 10,000 completed internships between its students and employers. The true number is likely quite a bit higher as post-internship follow-up pales in comparison to actual connections and experiences.

But the number is significant. That’s 10,000 opportunities for students and others to learn about Indiana communities and careers. That’s 10,000 instances of enthusiastic talent being put in place to help solve workplace challenges. And we know many of those interns became full-time employees and long-term contributors to Indiana’s economic success.

The 10,000 number will grow, as will IIN’s offerings. Continued expansion beyond college interns will bring more high school students, as well as adults looking to advance or change careers, into the fold. We will add to the experiences, facilitating longer-term opportunities, up to and including apprenticeships. On the shorter end of the time scale, job shadows for students and teacher externships are on the horizon.

The same technology that has helped make the 10,000-plus internship connections possible will allow for this expansion. That is accompanied by a high-touch approach — working directly with students, employers and educators throughout the state.

Internship excellence will be celebrated through the 14th annual IMPACT Awards on Feb. 18. Even greater successes, however, are yet to come. Learn more at www.indianaintern.net.

— Lori A. Danielson

GoTime Coachin

Indiana INTERNnet 

board president

— Mike Slocum

Executive director

Indiana INTERNnet

Who benefits from changes?

Kudos to Mr. Jeffers and his letter to the Tribune-Star dated Jan. 22nd concerning proposed convention center changes. I thought I was the only one who thought that any time the one person who keeps proposing changes in Terre Haute is given the go-ahead by city officials and the citizens wind up paying for them with increased taxes. And the “entrepreneur” reaps the profits. 

Haven’t these city officials figured this out or do they bask in the limelight? You have to admit, it is a pretty slick gig,

— Linda Cooper

Terre Haute

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The Tribune-Star is committed to publishing a diversity of opinions from readers in its Readers’ Forum. We’d like to hear what you think on any issue. Email us at opinion@tribstar.com.

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