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Rep. Jason Smith Touts More Affordable Health Care, Praises Trade War In Visit With Farmers

Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio
Farmer Eric Meusch (left) talks to Rep. Jason Smith in a high tunnel greenhouse on Meusch's Phelps County farm.

Eric Meusch, who farms 240 acres just outside Rolla, didn’t have health insurance for seven years until he recently got another job.

“We signed up for a plan under the Affordable Care Act right when it was passed. But two years later, we couldn’t afford the premiums,” Meusch said, speaking to U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, on the porch of his home last week.

Smith is visiting with 30 farmers across his south-central and southeastern Missouri district this summer to hear their concerns. 

He said health care cost is a common issue.

But while the Democratic rivals for president are debating universal free health care, expanding the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid for all, Smith said it’s the private sector that needs to make health care more affordable.

He said the first step is to require providers to make the prices they charge consistent and easy to understand.

“The fact that there is different pricing and different payments and different billing based on what type of health coverage you have, whether it's Medicaid, whether it’s Medicare, whether it’s uninsured or whether it’s health insurance — we need to have price transparency,” Smith said.

Smith gave laser eye surgery, a procedure not covered by most health insurance, as an example of how price transparency can save money.

“Because everyone knows how much it costs, providers have become competitive, and the price has gone down,” Smith said.

Another issue Smith said he is hearing about from farmers is the retaliatory tariffs from China and other countries due to the Trump administration’s trade war.

Smith said any pain, which he calls “short term,” will be worth it in the long run.

“When I talk to the president, and I communicate what the farmers communicate to me, he says, ‘In the long run, they will love me, Jason. Just wait.’ This is what the president tells me. The markets will grow. They will purchase more,” Smith said.

Some countries, especially China, Smith said, have taken advantage of U.S. trade policy for decades, and getting tough with them will give farmers a better deal in the future.

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Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.