HARLAN – U.S. Sen. Todd Young talked with area farmers about trade, soil conservation and environmental regulations on Wednesday – but many of their questions concerned health care costs.
One farmer said he had not been to a dentist in six years because he lacks dental insurance. Another suggested that Congress improve the federal Affordable Care Act rather than keep trying to replace it.
State Rep. Dave Heine, R-New Haven, told Young about a friend who received a $90,000 hospital bill for the removal of a kidney stone. When pressed for details, the hospital disclosed only three items it had charged for, Heine said.
“At the state level, we're looking at transparency in billing. ... We don't know what our costs are,” Heine said at Roemke Farms.
“You name me one thing in our industry, farming, that you don't know what the cost is. But when you go to the doctor, you don't know what the cost is,” he said.
Young, R-Ind., said multiple states are considering developing databases for medical billing information.
“The more transparency that we can inject into this system, the better,” the Greenwood resident said.
Young has co-sponsored federal legislation that would stop “surprise billing” – when a patient unintentionally receives care, and an invoice, from a physician from outside the provider network of the patient's insurer.
“We want to make it safe for America to go to their mailboxes again,” Young said.
Congressional Republicans want to “make incremental improvements” to the health care system, Young said, while Democrats are pushing for universal Medicare that he predicted would be unpopular with patients and health care providers if it became reality.
“I think a lot of seniors would be really uncomfortable knowing that they paid into (Medicare), the system's already, actuaries tell us, insolvent, right, and we're going to put further stain on that system by making that system available to the rest of the American population, not just retirees,” he said about prospects for universal Medicare.
“There are a lot of pieces to this that need to be worked out that may be superficially appealing on the campaign trail but I think would be quite destructive to our economy,” he said.
About two-dozen people attended Young's appearance at Roemke Farms. The discussion was sponsored by Indiana Farm Bureau.
Young touched on the soggy spring weather and the Trump administration's trade war with China, both of which have hurt farm income. He defended President Donald Trump's tariffs, saying China has been stealing technologies and dumping low-priced products into the market.
“This predatory economic behavior has to stop, and I do credit President Trump for elevating this issue,” he said.
Young recommended that the White House form partnerships with Japan and other nations “and collectively bring to bear our economic leverage against the Chinese. I think it's only through working with our other trading partners that we're ultimately going to be able to strike an agreement (on trade) that is both verifiable and enforceable” with China.
He later said the Chinese “need us badly” as a trade partner.
Discussion host Mark Roemke, who grows corn and soybeans on 3,700 acres outside Harlan, said that although 2019 has been a challenging year for farmers, it is “just a bump in the road.” He added, “I thank God I've got a good banker.”