There’s a pretty good chance you’ve eaten something from Overman Farms. Located in Goldsboro, NC, the local farm produces corn, wheat, and soybeans, and is home to over 7,600 pigs. In the NC Coalition for Fiscal Health’s podcast, “The Cost of Health,” we explore the stories that reveal the true cost of health on families and businesses struggling to stay afloat in North Carolina. In our first episode, we talk to Lorenda Overman of Overman Farms about the impact of exploding healthcare costs on her family’s 100-year-old farm.

To say Lorenda Overman knows a lot about farming is an understatement. The Overman Farm is a sixth-generation farm that is still in operation; Lorenda and her husband Harrell have worked on the farm for 36 years.

“Agriculture is North Carolina’s largest industry – hands down,” shares Lorenda Overman. “It beats the military two-to-one as far as money brought in and jobs provided. So, when you talk about how important is your farm, you also have to think about your community and the people that you employ (and their families) in the community that depend on you. Not only that – the local hardware store where you do business, the local fertilizer, the local chemical company – it all trickles down really quickly through our hands. When we take a load of wheat to the mill and we sell it, that money is almost immediately turned around and put back into our community to pay our bills. The communities are extremely dependent on agriculture to keep going.”

As independent business owners, farmers like the Overmans pay for their own health insurance which they may buy on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. These healthcare costs are one of the greatest challenges to independent farms remaining solvent. In some cases, these costs can be offset by federal subsidies offered to customers on the marketplace. But Lorenda shares that the Overman Farm made too much for a subsidy. As a result, when Blue Cross NC ended their grandfathered plan, their rates were set to nearly double.

“Our premium [for 2018] would be $2,500 a month. So, in five years we went from $1,300 a month to $2,500 a month -- almost just shy of double [what they used to pay]. And that is with a $14,000 deductible,” Lorenda says. “When you do the math at $2,500 a month, you're looking at $30,000 just in premiums, and then you add the $14,000 deductible and that's $44,000. Just because our tax form said more than $64,001. Which is phenomenal, because if we made less than $64,000, our premiums would have been $500 a month. We would have gotten a $2,000 subsidy.”

There’s just not enough money to go around for many farmers. The Overmans came up with a solution – although not an ideal one. Lorenda says she’s the sacrifice – she voluntarily cut her salary so her family would fall under the amount necessary to receive a subsidy.

“I’ve not quit working. I’m just working for zero,” Lorenda shares, before adding, “Technically, I’m working for health insurance. That’s what I’m working for. But it’s not in my back pocket, and I can’t use it to pay my light bills and my car payment.”

The main takeaway?

“I should not have to sacrifice my salary and my family’s financial wellbeing just to have healthcare.”

The Coalition for Fiscal Health wants to make sure that stories like hers are heard. To listen to this week’s episode, and learn what Lorenda has shared in recent conversations with senators in Washington, D.C., download our podcast here, or listen here to the full interview.

If you have a story to share about the impact of healthcare costs on your family or business, let us know at or on twitter @michaelck.

As our state and federal legislators work to fix our broken healthcare system, it is important that they remember that every regulation, every mandate, can result in costs that chip away more and more from the bottom lines of family businesses like the Overman farm.

Past (and future) episodes of our podcast “The Cost of Health” are available for download. Visit here, or listen and subscribe on your favorite podcast app.

If you have AnyPod installed on your Alexa device, just say “Alexa, ask AnyPod to play The Cost of Health.”

Are you a farmer or an independent or small business owner? Have you had a similar experience as the Overman Farm when it comes to healthcare? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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