Accessing Healthcare

Community health centers are the primary source of medical care for many farmworkers and their families. These health centers provide comprehensive primary and preventative health care to everyone in their community, regardless of their health insurance status and their ability to pay. Community health centers that serve farmworkers (commonly called migrant health centers) receive federal funds under Section 330(g) of the Public Health Service Act. This funding is administered by the Bureau of Primary Health Care at the Health Resources and Services Administration.

According to health center data, approximately 25% of farmworkers and their families seek health care at a community health center. Farmworkers face numerous challenges to health care access. These challenges include lack of transportation, long working hours, lack of sick leave, language, lack of familiarity with the U.S. health care system, and immigration status. Community health centers offer services on a sliding fee scale, regardless of the patient’s health insurance status or ability to pay. However, cost remains a major obstacle to health care access for many farmworkers and their families. Only 35% of farmworkers reported having health insurance according to the 2014 National Agricultural Workers Survey.  Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), eligible farmworkers and their families are able to purchase comprehensive health insurance in the marketplaces and may qualify for financial assistance (tax credits, cost sharing reductions) to lower their premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Workers who are injured or become ill at work may be eligible for workers’ compensation. However, the laws regarding workers’ compensation coverage for farmworkers vary by state and eligible workers may not be aware of or may be reluctant to file workers’ compensation claims due to misinformation or fear of employer retaliation. More information about workers’ compensation can be found in the resource center.

Farmworker Justice works with community health centers, community-based organizations, and others to promote farmworker access to health care and health insurance. We are a member of the Farmworker Health Network, a network of 6 national organizations (FJ, Health Outreach Partners, MHP Salud, Migrant Clinicians Network, National Center for Farmworker Health, and the National Association of Community Health Centers) who receive funding from the Bureau of Primary Health Care to provide training and technical assistance to health centers that serve agricultural workers. More information about the collective work of the FHN can be found in the Key Resources for Agricultural Worker Health available in the Resource Center. FJ We provides technical assistance in the form of trainings, issue briefs, and educational materials on a variety of topics including but not limited to health insurance (ACA, Medicaid, and workers’ compensation), health centers, and community collaborations (i.e. medical-legal partnerships). Educational materials for workers are available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.

Visit our Resource Center to see our materials on accessing healthcare. 

Disclaimer: This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under cooperative agreement U30CS22741, National Training and Technical Assistance Cooperative Agreement, for $450,000 with 0% financed with non-federal sources. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.