By Mayra Diaz-Ballard
One of the main topics on everyone’s minds these days is health care. Affordability, proximity and the amount of coverage play a major role in deciding what plan is right for farmers and their families. Even with insurance, many farmers don’t make regular checkups a priority.
Karen Parm, a farmer’s wife from Graves County, said, her husband, Jimmy, is paying the price for years of not seeing a dentist or doctor because “he didn’t have time.”
“His health now requires him to see the doctor,” she said. “Jimmy tries to schedule most of his appointments between the months of November and February, but when that’s not possible, he prefers appointments around 1 p.m.”
Scheduling his appointments at 1 p.m. gives him a chance to get everything running in the morning and be back to check on things before the end of the day. Karen said one of his brothers is also there to cover when Jimmy is gone, and they try to avoid being out at the same time.
For many families, the cost of insurance can be an obstacle for health care. Luckily, that hasn’t been a concern for the Parms, who are insured by the Kentucky State Retirement System. In the past, they have used Anthem/Blue Cross and Humana.
“Fortunately, we have insurance through my work that has continued through my retirement,” Karen said.
The retiree went on to say she’s noticed a changing trend in how families maintain health insurance.
“In the ‘70s when we married, most of the wives stayed home to help their husbands do the farm work and did not do public work,” she said. “Health care was higher for them, but they managed to pay for it. Now, many of the younger wives are more educated and choose to work in the public sector, hence being the main provider of the insurance for the family.”
For some families, the former structure is still true.
Todd and Beverly Harton focus their efforts on running their 357-acre farm in Trigg County together. The couple has private health insurance and have not inquired about the Affordable Care Act. Asked if they have a regular doctor, Beverly said yes and no.
“I have a regular doctor, but my husband does not,” she said. “There are no regular checkups, and we only go to a doctor as needed.”
Jeff Davis, a Christian County farmer, uses Blue Cross-Blue Shield and says he has not tried the Affordable Health Care Insurance. He has a regular doctor and a regular dentist that he goes to.
When asked how he manages to get away from the farm to get a checkup, he said, “When it comes to my health, I make time.”
He has never had any gaps in insurance coverage, and he also indicated that all of the farmers he knows have insurance coverage.
Scott Glass, a farmer from Christian County, goes for a checkup every six months to make sure everything is okay. He did not seem to worry about making time — he just went.
All of these farmers participate in the H2A Program. If health issues affecting the workers arise during their temporary time in the U.S., a huge issue is the language barrier between doctors and workers. Although one of the Graves County nursing facilities has hired at least one bilingual person, the number of services for Spanish speakers still seems to be lacking in small communities.
There is often no bilingual individual at hospitals; therefore, patients rely on a family member, a translator or an app to communicate.
Despite the hindrances that get in the way of primary health care, the importance of seeing a doctor remains the same.
By Mayra Diaz-Ballard