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Minnesota Farmers Offered Health Care Relief

May 02, 1987|Associated Press

WILLMAR, Minn. — A program to provide health care at reduced fees for some financially strapped farm families in southwestern Minnesota began Friday through a partnership of doctors, business and poverty program officials.

"This program preserves the dignity of the farmer," said Dr. James Tiede, program chairman. "It's confidential and they don't have to worry about collection agencies hounding them."

Physicians and about half of the dentists in seven counties will treat qualified patients for only half the usual fee, paid with money donated by businesses and administered by poverty programs. No government money is involved.

$1,000 a Year for Family

The Minnesota program, based in Willmar, is called Rural Emergency Medical Services. It is designed to provide up to $1,000 a year in essential medical and dental services to each eligible farm family in Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Lyon, Redwood, Renville, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties.

The service area is the same as that of the Affiliated Medical Centers, a six-branch clinic that includes three-fourths of the region's 80 doctors and two of the program's chief founders.

The group made the first $5,000 donation to the program, as well as pledging all 60 of its doctors to the half-fee arrangement.

A recent survey by the coalition indicated that 11% of Minnesota farmers have no health insurance. Those with coverage often carry deductibles of $500 or more to hold down the premiums.

Eligibility standards in the Minnesota program are tailored for farmers, who are often disqualified from government help because of too much income or assets.

The income ceiling is 150% of the federal poverty standards for Medicaid--$16,000 a year for a family of four. The assets test allows for 160 acres of land and $20,000 worth of farm equipment.

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