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Farmworkers harvesting food crop in Martin County.

Health Insurance for Farmers and Farmworkers

This article (also available in Spanish) discusses some of the reasons why farmers and farmworkers could especially benefit from opportunities to obtain health insurance coverage. Through August 15, 2021, health insurance is available through the Affordable Care Act special enrollment period.

Agricultural workers less likely to have health insurance

Compared to the overall US population, farmers and farmworkers are less likely to be covered by health insurance. Approximately 9% of the U.S. population in 2015 lacked health insurance (USDA 2015).  In comparison, a National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) for 2015-2016 found that less than half (47%) of farmworkers said they have insurance coverage, and only 56% said their spouse had insurance. The USDA Agriculture Resource Management Survey (ARMS) found that among farm operator households, the percentage insured varies by commodity, and families often rely on off-farm employer-provided insurance. Whether farmworkers or farm operators, the percentage uninsured in agriculture is higher than for the general US population.

Insurance helps people afford medical care

Without insurance, people are less likely to seek medical care.  The most common difficulty faced by farmworkers needing health care is the cost of care (NAWS 2018). A study by Ezzati-Rice and Rohde found that more than 75% of non-elderly insured adults visited a doctor’s office in 2005, compared to less than half (42.3%) of non-insured adults. Health insurance offers at least partial reimbursement for covered medical expenses. With higher percentages of farm household members uninsured, farmers face higher health-related financial and medical risks, compared to the general population.

Protecting farmers safeguards people, our economy, and our food supply

Hoerster et al. (2011) emphasize that affordable health insurance for farmworkers benefits not only the farmworkers themselves, but also our society as a whole. Farmers and farmworkers are essential to us all in that they produce and distribute our food supply.  Protecting farmers and farmworkers is of great importance for our economy and public health.