National Farmworker Awareness Week Blog: Celebrating 10 years of the Affordable Care Act

This week, as we celebrate National Farmworker Awareness Week, we also take a moment to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. Over the last 10 years, farmworkers and their family members gained access to comprehensive health insurance and health care thanks to the ACA.

Between 2014 and 2016, the percentage of insured farmworkers increased from 36% to 47%.[1] The availability of tax credits and subsidies to lower costs for low-income, lawfully present individuals through the ACA marketplaces created new opportunities for health insurance coverage. For example, H-2A workers are able to enroll in health insurance coverage while in the U.S. In many areas, H-2A workers pay an average monthly premium of $20 or less. Also, investments in community health centers and in-person assistance programs allowed more workers and their family members to enroll in and understand their coverage and connect to primary, preventative health care.  

Unfortunately, in the last few years, the ACA has been under attack, threatening the gains achieved and jeopardizing the health of farmworkers and other vulnerable populations. California v. Texas (previously known as Texas v. U.S.) could mean the end of the ACA if the law is deemed unconstitutional. The case challenges the constitutionality of the ACA after Congress in the 2017 Tax Bill eliminated the individual mandate penalty, requiring individuals to have health insurance coverage. The Supreme Court recently announced that they would hear the case later in the year. At the same time, the Administration has made regulatory changes that reduced access to health insurance for many, including farmworkers. They cut funding to navigator and outreach programs for healthcare.gov (the federal marketplace) by roughly 90% and changed the navigator program requirements. As a result, farmworker communities have fewer navigators, which means fewer individuals to provide in-person enrollment assistance. Farmworkers are hard to reach even in the best of circumstances and rely on in-person assistance to understand and enroll in health insurance. These cuts lead directly to reduced enrollment in health insurance coverage among farmworkers and their families.

Despite these threats, 10 years of ACA is something to celebrate. As the U.S. copes with the COVID-19 pandemic, access to comprehensive health insurance and health care is more important than ever. Several states, including California, Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland (among others) reopened enrollment in their marketplaces, creating a Special Enrollment Period for COVID-19 to increase health insurance coverage. There are efforts to create a similar Special Enrollment Period in the federal marketplace.

FJ is committed to promoting health insurance and health care access for farmworkers and their families. We need to ensure that farmworkers, who feed America, have access to the care and resources they need.


[1] U.S. Department of Labor, Findings from the National Agricultural Workers Survey, available at https://www.doleta.gov/naws/research/