University of Maryland Extension

Health insurance

Neith Little, Extension Agent, Urban Agriculture

Urban Ag home | Table of contents

Finding and paying for health insurance and health care is an enormous challenge for entrepreneurs.

Many farmers say that getting health insurance coverage for their family is the primary motivation for someone in the family working off-farm. A national survey of farmers found that 41% of farm households get their health insurance from an off-farm employer, 28% directly purchase a private policy, and 24% use a public health insurance program such as CHIP, Medicare, or Medicaid. Patching together health insurance coverage from among the many options available can be confusing and expensive. In 2016, farm households paid, on average, $659 per month on health insurance premiums (Becot and Inwood 2019).

For those farmers who are employers themselves, finding a way to support their employees’ health care can be an even bigger challenge. The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) is a program through the federal Health Insurance Marketplaces to help small businesses offer health insurance to their employees. Health Reimbursement Accounts are another option that offers the employer tax advantages (Pippidis 2018).

Despite the challenge, health insurance is a very important risk management tool. Farming is a physically taxing profession, and an injury or illness can quickly put the future of the farm in jeopardy.

University of Maryland Extension gathers health insurance information for farmers online here:

In particular, the article “Farm Operations and Health Care Insurance” by Maria Pippidis, does a good job of explaining the options and key concepts.

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