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Farmers Need Affordable Health Insurance

It wasn’t until the mandated Affordable Care Act that farmer Joe Reynolds first enrolled in a health insurance program, after seven years of farming. And it really got him thinking: how do farmers get a benefits package they may find at a more traditional job?  One that will allow them to stay healthy, save for retirement, and most importantly manage risk in their businesses by protecting the farms most important asset: the farmer?

“When I started farming, I wasn’t considering health insurance,” Joe said at a recent event highlighting Georgia Organics’ affordable health insurance initiative. “But now I know it is an important tool for farmers looking to start and sustain their businesses.”

As Board Chair of Georgia Organics, Joe has spearheaded these conversations with other stakeholders around the issue, highlighting the need for sound business and risk management solutions for farmer entrepreneurs, starting with affordable health insurance.

After years of surveys, student-led research, identifying stakeholders and funding, this initiative acknowledged a milestone on Oct. 9th  at a video premiere event at Sweet Water Brewery. The short film, featuring farmers experiences with health insurance access, highlighted the success of Georgia Organics’ pilot insurance enrollment program.

“The biggest thing is peace of mind,” shared Reggie Ramos of Grow with the Flow, a Bridge Program enrollee, at the premiere. “Having this coverage, it just allows us to do what we do best– farm.”

However, we know that there is still more to be done.

“We were covered in the Affordable Care Act,” Bobby Jones, who lives outside of the Kaiser Service area, shared with the group at the premiere. “But having our son, increasing our family size at the same income level, brought us into the coverage gap because Georgia didn’t expand Medicaid. It was the first time my wife and I really questioned whether or not farming was a long-term career option for us.”

As we celebrate our accomplishments and look at what is to come, it is important to reflect on what all it took to get here.

  • Three groups of Emory Graduate students through the Goizuetta Social Enterprise program, and two dedicated professors, that distributed surveys, conducted research, identified model insurance programs, developed a “cost share” calculator, and identified the Kaiser Bridge Program
  • $43,000 in Local Food Grants over two years from Food Well Alliance that provided funding for the staff time and resources needed to launch the Kaiser Bridge Community Partnership and maintain enrollment for the 2018 and 2019 years
  • A dedicated staff and team of interns within Kaiser Charitable Healthcare and Coverage that trained Georgia Organics staff and provided technical support during the enrollment program
  • Six weeks of Open Enrollment that held countless hours of phone calls, brainstorming sessions, visits to farms, and ultimately eight complete applications that covered 13 farmers and farmers families in the Kaiser service area in 24 months of free Gold Plan health insurance
  • A tireless, award-winning videography team, Anthony-Masterson, that captured the story of affordable health insurance in Georgia through the voices of Georgia farmers
  • Most importantly, the countless farmers that have shared their experiences, solutions, challenges, and hopes for affordable health insurance options

That’s a lot of numbers, but that’s only the beginning.

As we gear up for our second year as a Community Partner in the Kaiser Bridge Program, we’re also looking to expand this initiative.

Join us.

Learn more about the Kaiser Bridge Program on our website.

Watch our newly premiered video on our vimeo page.

If you’re interested in supporting this initiative or learning more, contact Perri at perri@georgiaorganics.org.

 

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