Seasonal workers complicate health care ruling - The Packer

Seasonal workers complicate health care ruling

06/28/2012 02:07:00 PM
Tom Karst

A Supreme Court ruling upholding the individual mandate for health insurance in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act still leaves many questions unanswered for the food industry and migrant workers.

The June 28 193-page decision was a surprise to Frank Gasperini, executive vice president of the Vienna, Va.-based National Council of Agricultural Employers.

“The surprise was that they decided it was okay as a tax issue,” he said.

Political observers believed that the Supreme Court couldn’t uphold the mandate under the “commerce clause.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said, “The Government asks us to read the mandate not as ordering individuals to buy insurance, but rather as imposing a tax on those who do not buy that product.”

While the individual mandate to buy health insurance was not supportable under the commerce clause, the penalty for not purchasing insurance was acceptable when viewed as a tax, he said.

Tom NassifAs written, the health care law still has holes that leave some workers falling through the cracks, industry leaders said. The health care law fails to account for the fact that seasonal workers have several employers, said said Tom Nassif, president of Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers.

“It appears that the majority of migrant workers won’t work anywhere long enough to have mandated coverage,” Gasperini said.

However, Gasperini said farm labor contractors could face larger health care costs.

“If individual farmers use farm labor contractors, they will have to pay because farm labor contractors will be required to have benefits,” he said.

Jason Resnick, general counsel for Western Growers, said many workers won’t be eligible to participate in state run exchanges because they are not authorized legal workers. What’s more, what insurance coverage that is offered now to farm workers may be disappear because of expected higher costs associated the law’s robust requirements.

“This (law) does nothing to drive down the costs of health care or health insurance,” Resnick said.

Though Western Growers Assurance Trust — an insurance provider — and others have received waivers on coverage caps until 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires that health insurance products contain no annual caps on coverage. Western Growers offers insurance products to growers, but those insurance plans currently have limits on coverage to make them affordable to employers and employees.

“We won’t be able to continue to offer (health insurance plans) without changes to the law,” he said.

Resnick said agriculture needs an exemption from the law to continue to offer affordable health insurance plans to their workers.

Currently, Resnick said about 130,000 farm employees and their dependents have health care insurance from their employers in California and Arizona. About 83,000 farm employees and their dependents are offered coverage through Western Growers alone, he said.

“What’s going to happen is that farm workers who are currently receiving group health insurance from their employers will lose that coverage and won’t be able to afford coverage on thier own and they won’t be eligible to receive it through the exchange,” Resnick said. “Their health care claims are going to be paid for by public dollars.”

Nassif said it appears that health insurance rates cannot go anywhere but up and make health care less affordable and less desirable for Western Growers members to provide.

Legislation is needed on the federal level that deals with undocumented and seasonal workers, Nassif said. “The law was designed for people who work 8 to 5 in offices and not for people who were going to have a different employer every couple of weeks or every couple of months,” he said.

Nassif said that Republicans and Democrats need to come together to fix the health care legislation and make implementation of the law fair, economical and achieve the purposes of making sure people get affordable health care. “We have a limit on how long the negotiations to reforming this law can take before it is too late,” he said.

Most mandates for employers on health insurance don’t kick in until 2014, but next year will be a big year for business to prepare for the law, Gasperini said.



Comments (3) Leave a comment 

Name
e-Mail (required)
Location

Comment:

characters left

Nick Prevett    
Florida  |  June, 29, 2012 at 10:13 AM

The problem is that the US health system is skewed towards large corporations who can negotiate reasonable premiums, the smaller the company, right down to the individual loses bargaining power. If you can deduct the premium from everyone who earns a wage like the do in most European countries, it not only simplifies the system but keeps the premiums at a reasonable level. Healthcare in general will become more expensive over time because of demographics i.e more older people and less younger people paying in along with advances in medical technology etc. What I do not understand is that no one looks at the cost side, why does a 1 hour visit to the ER where tests are carried out that find nothing wrong for an uninsured person shall cost $14,000.00, it looks like all the players with skin in the game earn so much that they can lobby so well that nothing will change.

Buncho Nerds    
CA  |  June, 29, 2012 at 03:08 PM

Wouldn´t it have been easier to create a universal TAX equivalente to the Fed´s Health Insurance Plan, and offer a credit waiver up-to that ammount in case you pay for your own health insurance or more? Buch of genious don´t know left from right!

rich    
new york  |  July, 03, 2012 at 02:44 PM

Gov. Screws everything up ... this is going to be a nightmare...nuff said

Feedback Form
Leads to Insight