Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Rancher's Perspective On Health Care

Why am I writing about Health Care? How does it relate to agriculture? Easy, farmers and ranchers need insurance, we pay into the existing system through taxes, our commodities are consumed and in some corners of the media, blamed for current health issues. Plus, I was listening to Bill Crystal on XM this morning while coming home from working cows. He gave and interesting analogy that I would like to expand upon in reference to our country’s current economic situation.

If you have a $250,000 mortgage on your home, only one wage earner, two children, payments on a car, and all of your water pipes beneath your home break what do you do? You tighten your belt, call a plumber and get your pipes fixed. Do you also remodel the living room, kitchen, master bath and garage? No. You wait on those other projects, and reduce your monthly expenses.

Now, the US deficit is projected to reach over $9 TRILLION in ten years. Why is there a rush to pass the Health Care Bill and Cap and Trade, or remodel the living room, kitchen, master bath and garage? Let us just fix the broken pipes, please, and reduce our spending.

Meaningful reform can certainly be accomplished in Health Care, and without adding to the National Debt. Here are five suggestions this farmer/rancher has for the folks in D.C. that could be dealt with one at a time and each under 10 pages in length. Heck, even Senator Conyers could handle that without staff and lawyers. Call me crazy, but to me it seems like Common Sense.


Collect all copies and shred them. Erase all electronic copies. Start over.

Cost: None, in fact paper is recyclable and money could be made. Also, think of the memory that would be freed up in servers, computers and memory sticks.


A state-regulated national market for health insurance would increase competition, offer more choices, and lower costs. People should be able to purchase policies across state lines, not be limited to buying within their own state. Additionally, eliminate denial of coverage to people that have preexisting medical conditions and/or have reached a “coverage cap.”

Cost: None


People should be able to invest in Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs). These MSAs should be allowed to roll over from year to year and grow over time, just like and IRA. MSAs should also be added as a permanent part of tax law, and offered to all employees without restriction. Further, all deposits into MSAs should be tax deductable and all withdrawals from these accounts, for medical expenses, should be tax free.

Cost: None


A reasonable cap must be placed on medical malpractice lawsuits. Limitless damage awards increase insurance costs for doctors, who then pass them on to the patients. Today, physicians are practicing “defensive medicine,” which drives up health care costs through unnecessary treatments and in some cases, tests.

Cost: None


Modernizing hospital recordkeeping will lead to quicker, more accurate treatments, a reduction in medical errors, and lower overall costs. Eliminating patient information gaps would reduce “under-utilization” and “over-utilization.” For example, the patient who patient who forgets to refill a prescription in order to stay on treatment (“under-utilization”) and the patient who goes from doctor to doctor to get the same prescription for devious intent or the patient who has retest after retest due to lack of doctor communication (“over-utilization”).

Cost: None


The demand for medical care can be greatly reduced by promoting personal responsibility and education within a culture of wellness. All school districts should implement a tiered course of study beginning in the elementary and culminating at the high school level that includes child development, health, nutrition, food safety, and budgeting. Furthermore, in order to reduce the incidence of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke, all students, throughout their school career, should be required to take a physical education class that includes regular physical exercise. Physical education classes should not be optional. Additionally, access to preventive services, including improved nutrition and breakthrough medications that keep people healthy must be increased to keep people out of the clinics and hospitals.

Cost: None

These five reforms would not cost a trillion dollars. They would increase competition, and lower cost of coverage. They would improve the wellness of our youth and reduce medical needs. Granted, I am just a farmer growing hay and pasture and a rancher raising cows and horses, but it seems pretty obvious to me.

MESSAGE TO WASHINGTON: Put your politics aside, wake up and start running the government like a business. Fix the broken pipes and get your finances in order. You do not have the option of declaring bankruptcy, or is that bill in committee?

I guess the way I see it can be summed up like this. If I have to haul my horse to a neighbor’s ranch to help move cows, and the trailer has a flat tire……I put on the spare. I do not go out and buy a new trailer.

So if you agree with what I have said, feel free to pass this on to your elected representatives.

Time is running short, the “Cash For Clunkers” has expired and we can no longer get $4,500 for the trailer on trade in….oh that’s right, trailers weren’t included. Guess the neighbor is just going to have to move those cows without me this time.


  1. Hi Jeff.....I love your site and your helpful, useful information. Come visit at I included your letter to Time magazine in my most recent post. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thank you for the compliment. I added a link to your blog on my List.

  3. This is the most reasonable plan I've seen so far. I love it!!! Thank you for posting this. I've been saying the same things for years, just in a very different way. I appreciate the logical solid good sense approach to health care.


About Me

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Jeff Fowle is a fourth generation family farmer and rancher from Etna, California. He and his wife Erin and son Kyle raise registered Angus cattle, Percheron draft horses, warmbloods, alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hay. They also start and train horses for riding, jumping, and driving. Their family run ranch has incorporated many environmentally beneficial and water efficient technologies and management strategies. Jeff attended college at Colorado State University for two years and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for four and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. Following college, he worked in Washington State for a year as a herdsman for BB Cattle Company and then returned to Etna, California in 1995 to own and operate KK Bar Ranch and Siskiyou Percherons. The latter was started by his grandfather, Clarence Dudley, who devoted much of his time to the Percheron Horse Association of America, specifically to developing their youth education program.