A few facts about farmworkers: nearly three-quarters of US farmworkers earn less than $10,000 per year, and three out of five farmworker families have incomes below the poverty level, according to the most recent findings of the National Agricultural Workers Survey.
In addition to low wages, farmworkers rarely have access to workers’ compensation, occupational rehabilitation or disability compensation benefits. Only twelve states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands provide farmworkers with workers’ compensation to the same degree as other workers. Farmworker coverage is optional in thirteen other states but not required by state law.
Even though many farmworkers fit eligibility profiles for programs such as Medicaid and food stamps, very few are able to secure these benefits. Migrant health centers estimate that less than 12 percent of their revenues are derived from Medicaid, and it is believed that fewer than 25 percent of eligible farmworkers receive food stamps.
Migrant farmworkers’ health status is at the same standard of most third world nations, while the country in which they work, the United States, is one of the richest nations on earth. Unsanitary working and housing conditions make farmworkers vulnerable to health conditions no longer considered to be threats to the general public.
Poverty, frequent mobility, low literacy, language and cultural and logistic barriers impede farmworkers’ access to social services and cost-effective primary healthcare. Economic conditions make farmworkers reluctant to miss work in order to seek health services. Farmworkers are not protected by sick leave, and they risk losing their jobs if they miss a day of work.
These circumstances cause farmworkers to postpone seeking healthcare unless their condition becomes so severe that they cannot work. At this point, many farmworkers must rely on expensive emergency room care for their healthcare needs. Migrant health centers provide accessible care for farmworkers, but existing centers have the capacity to serve fewer than 20 percent of the nation’s farmworkers.
OK, now feel free to complain about Stephen Colbert—well, read this and then complain all you want.
Congratulations to Heather MacDonald for this powerful and, given where she lives and works, brave piece about the evil that is Forbes magazine and Dinesh D’Souza.