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Insurance – Don’t Be Without It

Not long ago, On Pasture published an article entitled “Does the Lack of Affordable Health Insurance Threaten Farm and Ranch Viability?” The answer without question is YES.

This is one of the decisions that must be made by all the young people who want to get into farming and ranching: “If I give up my town job will I be able to afford health insurance for my family?” The thought that a health crisis can be the cause of losing all you have worked for can cause many sleepless nights.  I want to as best as I can tell two stories about just how this affected our family.

In 1920 my daddy was 4 years old and was one of 8 kids in the Ashford family. My Grandpa owned an 80 acre farm with a house, barn and blacksmith shop. My Grandma needed an operation and as the story was told, with things being like they were in those days the kind of operation was never mentioned. I assume that it was some kind of female problem, not that it matters in the telling of what happened. There was $800.00 owed to the hospital and Grandpa had no idea how he was going to raise that much money. He had taken a job at what at that time was called Standard Oil in Baton Rouge, but I never was told if there was any kind of insurance benefits that came with that job. My guess would be no.

Pa Pa, as all of us grandkids called him, was in a bind and the thought of not paying that bill never entered his mind. I don’t know all of the details, but the story in the family was that my Grandma had a brother who refused to loan them the money to pay the bill but offered to buy their place for the $800.00 and the offer was accepted. Now we can’t pass judgement on PaPa for not having the ability to pay this bill or for his brother-in law of taking advantage of the situation. But we all know this kind of thing is not so unusual in our history.

Now someone will surely say, but this can’t happen today. Not true. In our case it was a struggle, and we managed to pay for health insurance, but still things don’t always turn out as you plan.

Don and Betty Ashford and Great Grand Child

In 1990 Betty was diagnosed with breast cancer and required a mastectomy followed with chemo. The week before her surgery we were sitting one evening trying to decide if we had taken care of all the things that we should have and realized that we had not asked our insurance company if a second opinion was required. The next morning the call to the insurance company revealed that a second opinion was not required but as of the next Monday they were going into bankruptcy and cease to exist. We believe that this was a planned move by this company. We were never notified and our last premium payment check was never cashed or returned. None of this made any difference. We ended up having to pay for the surgery and the chemo that followed.

Folks it can break you. This was in 1990. Imagine how much it would cost today compared to then. But we got it done and Betty is fine so it all worked out. So, yes, the consideration of health insurance must be a high priority in the plan to farm full time.

From Your Editors:

If you are considering health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, you need to know about how changes made by the new administration may affect you.

First, the enrollment period has been cut in half.

You will only be able to enroll through the ACA exchange from November 1 – December 15. Also, be aware that the administration plans to shut down the federal health insurance exchange for 12 hours every Sunday but one – December 10 – during the open enrollment season (12 am to 12 pm ET) and overnight on the first day of open enrollment. This makes it even more critical to begin the process early.

Here is the website for the exchange.

Here is the application checklist from healthcare.gov to jump start your process. You can apply online, by phone, with agent assistance or by mail. Check this page for more information on each of these application avenues. If you are hoping for agent assistance, be aware that funding for this support has been cut by 40% so assistance may be limited.

Second, if you are enrolled in a plan, all changes must be made by December 15.

You need to check the cost of your plan or other changes that may have been made to it before the open enrollment closes on December 15. You will be automatically re-enrolled in your current plan on December 16, and you will not be able to make changes to a different or less expensive plan after that date.

We’re all looking for solutions to health care coverage. If you’ve found a way to get coverage for yourself and your family that others may not have considered, let us know.

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Don Ashford
Don Ashford
My name is Don Ashford and my wife is Betty and we live in Ethel, LA. It would be impossible for me to write a bio about myself without including Betty in it. We have been together since high school. I was in the senior class of 1955 and she was in the class of 1957. Do the math. We have raised cattle since 1959 except for a little time that I spent with Uncle Sam. We have grazed stockers, owned several cow- calf herds and custom grazed cattle for other folks. I worked as a pipefitter for more than 25 years. Until we went into the dairy business in 1977 we were as most people down here part-timers or week-end ranchers. Later after we had learned enough about MIG to talk about it so that it would be understood by others we put together a pasture-walk group to introduce it to our friends and neighbors. We belong to more farm groups then we probably should but we get great joy working with other people. What makes us most proud are our son and daughter, our 5 grandkids and our 7 great-grand kids. It has been a hell of a trip so far, but we are not done yet.


  1. Another option to look into are health care sharing ministries. A number of health care sharing ministries were exempted under the Affordable Care Act. As members of a sharing ministry, one sends a check directly to other members that have a shareable medical need every month.

    To give an example, from Samaritan Ministries International: “Every month, Samaritan members—70,000 households and more than 229,000 individuals—give directly to their fellow members who have qualified medical needs. Currently, this Biblical community shares about $25 million each month in medical needs.”

    Health care sharing ministries provide an affordable insurance free option (thereby helping lower costs).

    In full disclosure: my family are members of Samaritan Ministries. It has been amazing paying medical bills directly without going through an insurance company. We have had two medical needs (two births!) and have graciously had them paid for by other members, while we send our monthly share directly to someone else in need. I would encourage everyone to at least look into it and see if it fits your life situation!

    • Insurance is only needed when we have a deficiency in community. There’re various types of community, they may not all be geographically based. As a member of a Mennonite community I do not need any type of insurance,The needs are always covered and yes it is considerably cheaper than profit based insurance.

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