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.