California Bill Would Provide Health Care For Farm Workers

Mar 12, 2015

File Photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

 A new bill in Sacramento would help provide medical coverage for farm workers. Fm89’s Diana Aguilera explains more about the attempt to provide health care for all.

Assembly Bill 1170 would create a pilot program to pay for medical, surgical, and hospital treatment for farm workers. It would not only cover on-the-job injuries but also other illnesses.

Assembly member Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) says he introduced the bill because everyone should have access to health care.

“There’s many workers in the agricultural industry that currently do not qualify for health care and we’re trying to think outside the box, trying to find a different avenue where me might be able to extend health care coverage in this case through workers compensation,” Alejo says.

Many farm workers are undocumented immigrants and aren’t eligible for federally funded programs like Medi-Cal or the state’s insurance exchange.

Alejo’s bill would allocate a portion of the money growers and agricultural employers pay for workers compensation into the Care of Agricultural Workers Fund to pay for the coverage. If it becomes law, the pilot program would last for up to three years.

AB 1170 would require the director of the state Department of Industrial Relations to evaluate the amount spent by agricultural employers on workers’ comp and workers’ comp medical coverage. The bill would then redirect the amount that would have been spent on workers’ comp medical coverage into the fund to cover the costs of the health care coverage.

Some growers in the Central Valley applaud the proposal including Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League based in Fresno.

“We could be a model for other states.” Cunha says. “We’re going to try this, I’m hoping this works. It’s a new concept but Alejo is trying to make something work for the farmers, the packers, and most of all for the workers.”

The bill is scheduled to be heard by an Assembly committee later this month.