WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today are calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to help protect Upstate New York farmers’ access to health care through dairy and farmer cooperatives. In a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick, the senators asked CMS to consider allowing farmers who are eligible for the new Health Reform law health insurance subsidies to be able to purchase their coverage from the farmer cooperatives and receive the subsidies to make insurance more affordable. Many upstate farmers currently receive health insurance through the co-op and the Senators wanted to request that they also be able to access the insurance subsidies, if they are eligible because of their income. The letter was also signed by Senators Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Robert Casey (D-Penn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
“Farmers are the backbone of many of Upstate New York’s communities, and it is critical that we protect their access to quality health care,” said Schumer. “Many Upstate New York farmers currently receive health insurance through dairy and farmer cooperatives, and I urge CMS to forge a solution that meets our farmers’ unique medical insurance needs and ensures they can keep this necessary coverage.”
“Farmers have long relied on their cooperatives for insurance and other assistance,” said Gillibrand, the first New Yorker on the Senate Agriculture Committee in 40 years. “I am fighting to ensure that they can still access health insurance through their trusted cooperatives.”
Schumer and Gillibrand pointed out that “in many cases, the benefits provided under these plans have been specifically designed by the farmers themselves to meet a need that was not being met in the general insurance market,” the letter says. “Many of these benefits, for example, such as milk deduction check-off, 24-hour live access to customer service, and special wrap-around options for accident coverage, are very farmer-specific, and unlikely to be offered in the exchanges.”
The letter can be found here.