Outreach to H-2A Workers
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Alexis Guild, Farmworker Justice
Over the past decade, there has been significant growth in the use of temporary foreign agricultural workers on H-2A visas (H-2A workers) in the U.S. Washington has one of the largest farmworker populations in the country, however it has just been in more recent years that the state has seen an expansion of the H-2A workforce. From 2014 to 2015, there was a 30% increase of H-2A workers in Washington. Today, Washington is among the top five states in the number of H-2A workers employed.
The majority of H-2A workers are young men from Mexico. While in the U.S., H-2A workers have certain protections, including access to workers’ compensation, housing, and transportation reimbursement from their home country, among others. As “lawfully present” individuals, they also have rights and obligations under the Affordable Care Act. They are liable under the ACA’s individual mandate and are eligible for financial assistance in the health insurance marketplace.
H-2A workers, many of whom arrive outside of open enrollment, pose unique challenges for outreach and enrollment, requiring additional training, technical assistance, and resources. They tend to be more isolated than the general agricultural worker population and are less likely to seek medical care. Most H-2A workers are uncertain about their rights and responsibilities under the ACA, as are their employers, and the health centers that serve them.
Farmworker Justice (FJ) is working with HRSA to support outreach and enrollment efforts to H-2A workers. In Washington, FJ and the Northwest Regional Primary Care Association (NWRPCA) are working with the Washington Association of Community and Migrant Health Centers (WACMHC), health centers, legal services providers, and other statewide and local organizations to develop a strategy for H-2A worker enrollment. NWRPCA is coordinating the effort, with FJ providing technical expertise, resources, and training at both the state and community level.
Recently, NWRPCA organized an initial training hosted by Quincy Community Health Center in Quincy, Washington. The training provided participants the background on the H-2A program, as well as strategies and organizational resources to use for their outreach and enrollment efforts. Participants were engaged throughout the day’s training and provided insightful feedback and suggestions for how to improve outreach services to H-2A workers.
In the coming weeks and months NWRPCA will continue to engage health centers and other community partners in order to ensure that H-2A workers in the state are able to get covered and access health care services. If you would like more information about this effort please contact Jessica Burkard or Seth Doyle with NWRPCA’s Community Health Improvement program.