Major medical expenses spark financial worry among farm families

An analysis of more than 900 surveys of farm households from 10 US states found “a top worry for farm families is the impact a major illness or injury that leads to medical debt would have on the farm enterprise

Agricultural systems face challenges from weather and markets that can threaten their resilience to shocks and stresses. Researchers in the agriculture sector tend to focus on these big crises, like storms or drops in commodity prices. Yet the “little things” that can impact any farm at any time, such as a barn fire, are seldom studied even though they may also shock and stress farm families.

Then, too, there are personal crises, such as illness, divorce or a loss of an off-farm job, which could affect anyone and certainly would have an effect on the resilience of the farm business.

An important example of these micro, household-level worries is medical debts due to medical expenses associated with a major illness or injury, which is examined in a recently published study in the peer reviewed Agriculture and Human Values, a leading journal on food and agriculture research.

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