The Sacramento Bee has an interesting story about the Bush administration’s reticence to release a study on farmworker health and access to care.
The study, which was commissioned four years ago, was intended to help national policymakers plan for better health care for three million migrant farmworkers who are the backbone of our food supply.
The nation’s estimated 3 million migrant and seasonal farmworkers are generally poor. Three out of four earn less than $10,000 a year.
Few are insured. By some estimates, only about 5 percent are covered by employer-provided health insurance. Their work is dangerous.
Thirteen percent of U.S. occupational deaths during the 1990s occurred in farming, though farmworkers made up only 2 percent of the nation’s work force.
“Oftentimes if we can catch their illnesses early, we can actually save society a great deal of money,” then-Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., declared during brief House debate. “The sicker a person becomes … the more expensive it is and typically will be treated in an emergency room where the cost is that much greater for Medicaid.”
The issue will be a thorny one for state lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, too, as many of these farmworkers are also undocumented immigrants. This past year, efforts by Gov. Schwarzenegger and Democrats to expand coverage to all children was thwarted by Republican legislators, who objected that some of those children would be undocumented.
It will be interesting to see how the release of such a study will affect the debate in California.