NFU leader cites health care issue as House GOP reveals plan

SAN DIEGO — National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said here Monday that dealing with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will be at the top of the list of issues Republicans have to address before the farm bill, and that if the ACA is repealed, millions of Americans will again turn to emergency rooms for primary health care.

Johnson spoke about the issue in his annual address to the NFU membership at its annual meeting here, before House Republicans released their plan that their leaders say will repeal and replace Obamacare.


Roger Johnson

The agriculture commissioner of North Dakota from 1996 to 2009, Johnson said that when he traveled around the state and asked farmers to name their biggest problem, “the most common answer I got … was health care. The last few years I don’t hear people saying that. If we repeal the Affordable Care Act, those voices are going to be front and center again.”

Noting that 20 to 30 million people nationwide have taken out health insurance under the ACA, Johnson said, “If premiums go up enough people will drop it and go to the emergency room and everyone else will pay for it.”

According to a Washington Post analysis, the House Republican plan would replace federal insurance subsidies with a new form of individual tax credits and grants to help states shape their own policies.

The Post said the plan “would no longer penalize Americans for failing to have health insurance and would begin winding down the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid three years from now.” It would continue to allow people to stay on their parents’ health plan until they are 26, and while it would forbid insurers to deny coverage or charge more to people with pre-existing medical problems, it would allow insurers to impose a surcharge on such people if they have had a gap in coverage.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled a markup of the bill on Wednesday.

But the House bill’s future is far from certain. Four key Republican senators, all from states that opted to expand Medicaid under the ACA, said they would oppose any new plan that would leave millions of Americans uninsured, the Post reported.

“We will not support a plan that does not include stability for Medicaid expansion populations or flexibility for states,” Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

–The Hagstrom Report