Health & Occupational Safety

Expanding Access to Healthcare for Farmworkers: ACA Open Enrollment Starts Today

Today is the first day of open enrollment for the new health insurance marketplaces. Today, millions of currently uninsured and underinsured individuals living in the U.S. will have the opportunity to purchase affordable, high-quality health insurance. But a lot of work lies ahead.

According to a recent poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 67% of the uninsured and 51% of the general public do not have enough information about the law to know how the Affordable Care Act will impact their families. Additionally, 74% of the uninsured and 64% of the general public do not know that open enrollment begins Oct. 1. These statistics are not surprising. In focus groups we conducted with farmworker community-based organizations across the country, the majority we spoke with knew very little about the ACA. And a lot of what they had heard was false information. For example, a promotora de salud/community health worker in California told me she heard that in 2014, a person without health insurance who visits the ER will not only be responsible for the medical bill but will also be assessed a fine.

Misinformation is rampant in farmworker and immigrant communities. This leads to fraud and abuse by scammers who take advantage of this confusion and lack of information. Across the country, community-based organizations and community health centers are reaching out to communities through navigators - people trained to educate community members about the ACA, connect them to resources, and help people enroll in health insurance coverage. Campesinos Sin Fronteras, a farmworker-community based organization in San Luis, Arizona, will have navigators to help the area’s farmworkers understand the ACA. But more needs to be done. 

Farmworker Justice is developing materials for farmworkers on the ACA, including pamphlets, fact sheets, and a training curriculum for outreach workers about the ACA. We are also working with community based-organizations in California, Arizona, Florida and North Carolina to connect eligible farmworker children to CHIP and other health insurance coverage.
Today is an exciting day but we must not forget that it is only the beginning. Please contact us if you have questions or are interested in working with us to expand access to healthcare for our nation’s farmworkers and their families.

NYT "Tacking Health Care Costs onto CA Farm Produce" Doesn't Tell the Whole Story

Today’s New York Times article, “Tacking Health Care Costs Onto California Farm Produce” discussed the impacts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on California farmers, their labor contractors and farmworkers. Farmworker Justice recognizes that affordability may be a challenge for farmworkers but believes that every farmworker deserves the opportunity to obtain health insurance.

The article fails to point out that many large agricultural employers may in fact be exempt from the employer mandate due to the seasonal worker exception. Under the seasonal worker exception, employers with more than 50 employees but with a largely seasonal workforce will not have to offer health insurance to their full-time employees. Further, small employers will be eligible for tax credits to offset the cost of providing health insurance to their employees. Growers who do fall under the mandate will have to offer health insurance to their employees. It’s up to individual farmworkers, not contractors who claim to speak on their behalf, to decide if they can afford the cost of the premium. If a worker deems that this payment is a hardship, he/she can apply for various waivers from the individual mandate. 

Currently, at least 64% of farmworkers are uninsured. Many farmworkers, because they lack authorized immigration status, are ineligible for Medicaid and are unable to purchase private insurance through the health insurance marketplaces. Most immigration reform proposals being considered in Congress would continue to deny these options to new immigrants for the foreseeable future, if not permanently. Like workers in other industries, farmworkers and their families have healthcare needs. They work in one of the most dangerous industries in the country. They should have access to primary and preventative care. Their wages are already low and the added burden of poor health and unaffordable healthcare should not drive them further into poverty. The costs of maintaining a safe workplace and providing affordable healthcare are a cost of doing business for US employers, and agricultural employers should not shift these costs onto taxpayers.

Farmworker Justice has created a fact sheet on ACA and how it will affect access to healthcare for farmworkers and their families, available here. You may also contact Alexis Guild  for further information. 

You can find the link to the full  New York Times article here.

Farmworker Justice Celebrates National Health Center Week

August 11 - 17th  is National Health Center Week – a celebration of the services and contributions of community health centers to the health and well-being of millions of people across the United States. Community and migrant health centers provide affordable, high-quality primary preventative healthcare to medically underserved populations, including farmworkers and their families.

Why are migrant health centers important? The barriers to healthcare for farmworkers are numerous, including poverty, cultural and linguistic differences, transportation, and immigration status. An estimated 64% of farmworkers lack any form of health insurance. Migrant health center services are tailored to meet the needs of farmworkers and their families. Mobile clinics bring clinicians to the fields and outreach workers provide health education to community members.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) creates new opportunities for farmworkers to access healthcare.  Farmworker Justice has created a fact sheet on the ACA and farrmworkers which is available here.  Some farmworkers will be eligible for tax credits in the health insurance marketplaces to lower the cost of monthly premiums, while others may be newly eligible for Medicaid. But regardless of their insurance coverage, these health centers can provide medical care for farmworkers and their families.

Health centers will play a pivotal role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. In 2010, $11 billion over five years was set aside to support the expansion of community health center services. Many community health centers are designated as “essential community providers” and will be a part of the provider network for health insurance plans offered in the state health insurance marketplaces. Health centers will also have personnel, known as navigators, dedicated to help patients and community members understand and enroll in health insurance. Inside the clinic and out in the fields, the navigators will be trained to talk with farmworkers about health insurance options under the ACA.

Farmworker Justice supports the mission of community health centers– to provide high quality care to underserved populations in the US. Our nation’s farmworkers, the men and women who harvest the fruits and vegetables we eat, deserve healthcare that is affordable, accessible and culturally competent. 

Celebrating Agricultural Worker Health Day - A Focus on FJ's Partnership with Migrant and Seasonal Head Start and Migrant Health Centers

Marcos, Lilia and their three children share an apartment close to town. Marcos works in the strawberry fields and has a schedule that often fluctuates with the changing tasks through the season. Lilia works at a landscaping company that has pretty consistent yet long hours and is a 45 minute drive from her home. Although Marcos works in close proximity to their home his hours, too, are long. Their two youngest children attend the local Migrant Head Start Center and their oldest is at the neighborhood elementary school.

Farmworker Justice Rises

Today, Farmworker Justice will rise. We will rise in solidarity with the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (Alliance of Women Farmworkers) and others all over the world to end violence against women. We will rise as a part of One Billion Rising.

One Billion Rising, an international event that aims to bring attention to the issue of violence against women, will take place on February 14, 2013. The event is organized by V-Day, a non-profit organization founded by Eve Ensler, the playwright of the Vagina Monologues. Why One Billion Rising? Because approximately one billion women have been victims of violence around the world. Among these women are farmworkers.

Farmworker women and girls in the United States are at high risk of sexual violence and sexual harassment in the fields. Indigenous women are especially vulnerable. Many have limited Spanish proficiency and are discriminated against due to their ethnicity or language. According to a report last year from Human Rights Watch, women in the fields are subjected to rape, coercive sexual conduct, groping, and verbal harassment from foremen, supervisors, farm labor contractors and others who have the power to hire and fire workers. Few women report these abuses. They fear employer retaliation. They lack information about their rights in the workplace. They are ashamed of telling others about what happened to them. They fear that reporting may reveal their documentation status and/or the documentation status of loved ones. They lack the resources to complete the lengthy and complicated reporting process.  

Quantifying the economic impact of occupational injuries and illnesses in the United States

As farmworker advocates, we understand the emotional, physical and economic toll of occupational injuries and illness on farmworkers. Recently, a report came out that detailed the cost of occupational injuries and illness in the US. Paul Leigh, from the University of California, Davis conducted an economic analysis focused on low-wage occupations, defined as jobs that pay an hourly rate below $11.18.

More Pesticides Mean More Risks for Farmworkers & Their Children

As farmworkers plant, weed, irrigate, and harvest our fruits and vegetables, they are at constant risk for exposure to dangerous pesticide residues. These residues cling to plants and are easily absorbed into the soil. Farmworkers are continuously exposed as they engage in their daily work tasks.


Pesticide Perils: Children at Risk

Last week the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) released a report entitled A Generation in Jeopardy: How Pesticides are Undermining our Children’s Health and Intelligence highlighting the disturbing connections between pesticide exposure and an alarming array of health risks, particularly for young children.

National Health Center Week: FJ & Migrant Health Centers

Throughout the week, Farmworker Justice highlighted the role of community and migrant health centers in the health and well-being of our nation’s farmworkers. Unfortunately, these health centers are under-utilized by farmworkers and their families. In fact, it is estimated that only 20% of farmworkers seek services at health centers. The barriers farmworkers face to access healthcare are numerous: poverty, insurance coverage, immigration status, transportation, fear of employer retaliation, limited English proficiency, lack of information…and the list goes on.

National Health Center Week: Community/Migrant Health Centers and the Affordable Care Act

President Obama’s healthcare reform legislation, formally known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is moving towards full implementation.  By 2014, all parts of the law, including health insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion (for those states that choose to expand their Medicaid programs) will be in effect.  Thanks to the ACA,  the Congressional Budget Office estimates that between 20 million and 23 million people will receive coverage through the state insurance exchanges and 16 to 17 million additional people will be enrolled in Medicaid.


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