A group of farmers in California is suing the state Farm Health Insurance program, saying it’s not providing enough coverage for farm workers.
Farmers in the drought-stricken state have been left out of the program, which pays for coverage for farmers with health insurance through a federal government program.
The group, California Farm Workers Alliance, filed a complaint Friday in Sacramento, claiming the program is not providing adequate coverage for workers in the state’s drought-wracked agricultural sector.
“Farmers who are forced to work in areas where it’s very cold and very wet, who have no access to adequate water, and who are very, very ill, and are therefore forced to rely on food from people who don’t have adequate medical insurance are going to have serious health consequences,” said Debbie Schmitt, the president of the California Farm Workforce Association.
Schmitt said the program has been unable to meet its goals.
The California Farm Bureau Federation is the lead sponsor of the Farm Health Insurance Program.
It said it has made significant improvements in the coverage it offers to farmers and ranchers, and it is pleased that the program now covers a substantial number of farm workers in California.
But the group said it’s concerned about the lack of health coverage in the program.
“We’re deeply concerned about how vulnerable we are to illness and death,” said Jim Rees, executive director of the farm bureau federation.
Rees said the Farm Workers Association is concerned about rising costs in the coming year.
“These are not a small number of farmers that we’re looking at,” he said.
California Farm Bureau spokesman Dan Pappas said the agency is “fully supportive of the State Farm Workers Health Insurance Program and looks forward to continued progress.”
But the farm industry is not happy with the program’s coverage levels.
“The program is in a crisis,” said Bob Waggoner, president of California Farm Business Association.
“We’re trying to get the program to work.”
The group also is asking the state to pay more to the federal government to cover workers in rural areas who are in rural counties.