In eastern North Carolina, H-2A workers—temporary foreign guest workers that come to the U.S. to work in agriculture—face multiple barriers to accessing healthcare, including lack of transportation, poverty, and inflexible work hours. The Affordable Care Act, which requires H-2A workers to either enroll in health insurance while in the U.S. or claim an exemption–or otherwise pay a penalty–is an opportunity for farmworkers to improve their access to affordable health services. However, barriers persist that prevent these farmworkers from fully benefitting from the law.
As a means of improving farmworkers’ access to healthcare, we have developed strategies and materials to minimize these challenges to health insurance enrollment and utilization and to promote H-2A workers’ health insurance literacy. Our program offers:
- Enrollment assistance
- Evening and weekend home visits
- Tax information and referrals
- Case management, interpretation, and transportation services
- Assistance with appeals, exemption applications, and health insurance claims
- Specialized training to partner organizations interested in working with H-2A workers
- Low-literacy, Spanish-language materials
- Popular education trainings for farmworkers on health insurance utilization and maintenance
We assist approximately 250 farmworkers each year with enrollment, and we visit these workers frequently throughout the season to help them pay their monthly premiums, find a doctor, schedule appointments, and cancel their plans before returning to their home countries (required under the law). Because of this work, many workers who otherwise might not have seen a specialist or gotten an annual exam were able to do so at low cost.
Our program now serves as a model for other states with growing H-2A populations. Check out the presentations that we’ve done about our work and the news coverage that we’ve received from WRAL, the Associated Press, North Carolina Health News, and the Boston Herald!
Click here to learn more about the Affordable Care Act and farmworker eligibility to purchase health insurance. You can also view the resources we use on outreach and for community education presentations.