We may be in peak summer, but the child and family policy news never seems to dry up completely. This week we want to share the findings of a new report from our colleagues at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explaining why health advocates are so concerned about those new Farm Bureau plans. We also have a new resource on the science of brain development and the social and physical processes that help children build the cognitive and emotional skills they need to thrive as adults.  

Alternative plans undermine care for Iowans

Health plans like the ones authorized to be sold by the Iowa Farm Bureau next year will likely be inadequate and unaffordable for many Iowa farmers and farm workers and will do more harm than good, according to a new report from the DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  

In fact, the vast majority of Iowa farmers and farm workers struggling to find health coverage have incomes that likely make them eligible either for Medicaid or for subsidies to help them afford good-quality insurance through the ACA marketplace -- but they may need more information or help with enrolling.

An Iowa law passed this spring allows the Farm Bureau to offer health plans that are exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s benefit standards and consumer protections, as well as state and federal insurance rule

Plans like these, with premiums affordable to people with lower incomes, are likely to offer extremely limited coverage, leaving anyone who buys them exposed to high costs if they experience an illness or injury. 

They are also expected to increase premiums for middle-income people who want or need more comprehensive coverage in Iowa’s individual insurance market. A farmer who enrolls in a comprehensive individual-market plan will likely see higher premiums over time, as healthier people abandon the individual market in favor of skimpy plans and leave behind a sicker and costlier group of enrollees. 

“To truly help farm families, Iowa policymakers should focus on helping more people enroll in comprehensive coverage they may already be eligible for through Medicaid or the Marketplace, while also making premiums more affordable in the state’s individual insurance market,” said Mary Nelle Trefz, health policy associate at the Child and Family Policy Center. “An approach like that would maintain consumer protections and access to adequate coverage for people who work in agriculture, without further harming Iowa’s insurance market and the people who depend on it.”

Read more about the problems with skimpy plans on our blog

Childhood experiences, good or bad, have a direct effect on a child's brain development. A growing body of research illustrates the connection between childhood adversity and a host of health problems and risky behaviors in adulthood.

This week we traveled to Washington and spoke with many members of Iowa's delegation about the importance of supporting programs that foster healthy brain development in kids. The Center developed a new explainer on brain science and how federal programs play a key role in helping families prevent, manage and overcome adversity. You can see a portion of it below; view the whole piece here

Center staffers Stephen Dykstra, Anne Discher and Mary Nelle Trefz visited Capitol Hill this week to talk with Iowa's federal delegation about the social and physical processes that can either help or hinder healthy brain development in young children. 


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