Health insurance for farm workers

National Public Radio ran a story this month that says that half of the U.S. farm work force is undocumented and that many cannot afford health insurance. My state of New Jersey officially puts the estimate at 70% but I suspect that it may actually be higher, at least in my region. The article says of the problem: “It’s huge. And no one’s talking about the enormity of it”.

The basis issue is that farm workers don’t earn enough to afford Obamacare health insurance without subsidies which they don’t qualify for. The complexity of the hiring system for laborers leads me to conclude that traditional employer-sponsored group health insurance is not a possibility (no matter what the law says).

Having worked in a rural area for agricultural employers for 20+ years I know a few things about the topic:

  1. There are viable health insurance work-around solutions for small businesses and labor contractors. Limited benefit insurance solutions for those not required to have Obamacare are a godsend. I’ve directed hundreds of workers  to Inbound Immigrant insurance, for example, with great success over many years before and after the Affordable Care Act.
  2. Business owners and advisers who deal with the problems faced by undocumented workers face additional liability risks. It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” environment that must be considered in business and financial planning.
  3. The problem is not confined to farming. Construction, food service, fishing and other industries face similar problems.
  4. It is easier to deal with smaller work force populations than larger ones so I predict further breakup of large farm worker labor forces as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s ongoing implementation timeline.

I welcome a discussion with business owners or labor contractors who are struggling with workforce health insurance issues. I’ve had some success in this area and would welcome the opportunity to explore new opportunities.


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