Farmers and Farm Workers To Be Hit Hard by Obamacare Costs

Reason 24/7ReasonMuch of the talk about Obamacare in recent days has focused on the pressures it's putting employers under to cut hours and trim benefits. But there are also marginally profitable businesses that aren't entirely sure how they're going to survive at all, after the law forces them to shoulder the cost of expensive benefits that have never been part of their compensation packages. Agriculture, in particular. could be hard-hit, putting both employers and workers at risk.

From Kaiser Health News:

HURON, Calif. — Farm labor contractors across California -- the nation's biggest agricultural engine -- are anxiously studying a provision of the Affordable Care Act, which will require hundreds of thousands of field workers to be covered by health insurance.

And while the requirement to cover workers was recently delayed until 2015, the contractors, who provide farmers with armies of field workers, say they are already preparing for the potential cost, inconvenience, and liability the new law will bring to their business, which typically operates on a slender profit margin.

"I've been to at least a dozen seminars on the Affordable Care Act since February," said Chuck Herrin, owner of Sunrise Farm Labor, a contractor based here. "If you don't take the right approach, you're wiped out."

When affected business people say they don't have a lot of wiggle room, they're referring to the fact that "[f]arm labor contractors generally rely on a 2 percent profit." Not surprisingly, they're hoping to pass the new costs on to growers, and ultimately to consumers. If they can't — if a price hike pushes supermarkets to source their produce from lower-cost growers overseas, for example — that two percent profit margin won't provide much of a cushion.

Agricultural workers are also baffled that they're expected to cough up as much as 9.5 percent of their low wages to pay premiums for government-mandated health coverage.

"We eat, we pay rent and no more," Mr. Romero said in Spanish. "The salary that they give you here, to pay insurance for the family, it wouldn't be enough."

Some labor contractors already offer low-cost coverage, but that sort of bare-bones benefit is banned under the new law.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently suggested that Obamacare's byzantine provisions and incentives are a "step in the right direction" of moving beyond insurance-based healthcare and, presumably, toward a single-payer system explicitly controlled by the government.

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  • Brett L||

    Huh. I was told that these were all Jobs Americans Won't Do.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Well, not after the Administration is done with them, it'd be a job where you lose money, driving it to the illegals who don't have the overhead. Hense the push for amnesty - an attempt to get rid of the fallback and get single-payer food production.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    If these businesses can't survive to further the state's goals, then good riddance.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    And as a bonus, when food prices go up, we can blame the free market and start a "get profit out of food" movement. With socialized healthcare almost here, we've got to refill the pipeline for the next gigantic government expansion.

  • PapayaSF||

    I ask "single-payer" advocates why it is that food, which is obviously far more crucial to life than medical care, shouldn't be "single-payer" as well.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I've yet to hear a satisfactory answer to this as well. The closest to a decent argument is that when you need healthcare, you need it immediately, but your need for food is more flexible.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Last I knew, billing for Medical services was done afterwards, and I've never hard anyone claim 'urgency' only 'scale'.

  • R C Dean||

    when you need healthcare, you need it immediately,

    Then why are they pushing "wellness" programs and asymptomatic "preventive" testing?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I didn't say they were consistent, or that it was a good argument. Just that it's the closest to a not-horrible one.

  • PapayaSF||

    The response is often about the high cost of catastrophic and long-term care, and my reply is: "OK, then let's have insurance that just covers that, and not regular doctor visits and birth control and so on."

  • Tonio||

    I do this to, MangoLA. Also housing, since hypothermia is a real risk.

    This always backfires since they always agree that "yes, those too."

  • PapayaSF||

    Then you ask why the Soviet Union and China gave up on it, and North Korea didn't but has famines.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    Collectivisation of our ag sector will be fun. Those always turnout well... unless you're one of the Kulaks...or like eating.

  • Tonio||

    "get profit out of food"

    [Shudder]

  • Dweebston||

    Agriculture, in particular. could be hard-hit, putting bother employers and workers at risk.

    Dratted small businesses.

  • Paul.||

    I thought only women and minorities were hardest hit.

  • Dweebston||

    I don't know who you think harvests your okra, but it's not John Johnson or Bob Boberton. Those are the assholes running the labor camps farms, and their just comeuppance is finally at hand.

  • Paul.||

    Ah, so I can get back to polishing my monocle knowing that the status quo is... quo.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Uh, oh. You do not fuck with farmers. At all.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    People at large find farmers sympathetic.

    More sinisterly: we do tend to have guns, and also...

  • Tonio||

    Except my understanding is that the family farm is being superseded by corporate farming. While the corporation may not shoot at you (liability), they will lawyer you to death.

  • John||

    The family farm is done. The economies of scale ended it. The equipment is too large and too efficient to make a small farm make sense.

    Ironically the other thing that has helped kill it is all of the subsidies. The subsidies don't make a small farm competitive. But if you have a corporation and can game the system by creating a bunch of smaller entities that get the subsidies, they can be very profitable. Farm subsidies are total corporate welfare.

  • John||

    He Hispanics, how is that moving into the Democratic Plantation working out for you?

  • Pro Libertate||

    He Hispanics? Helium Hispanics? Is that like white Hispanics?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Not white, just very light.

  • Paul.||

    Latinos: You can't court us and deport us!

    Obama administration: Si se puede!

  • John||

    If we eliminate the agriculture sector outside of growing things like corn and wheat that are capital rather than labor intensive, that should solve our illegal immigration problem.

  • UnCivilServant||

    And intensify a scurvy epidemic.

  • John||

    For those too poor to buy imported produce, yes. I wonder what the "eat local" people are going to do when they realize that the Black Jesus just made a good number of foods virtually impossible to produce locally. I doubt much since that kind of complex thinking is beyond them.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    It's totally possible to produce locally. It's just that racists are not doing it to spite him.

  • Tonio||

    Why, yes, if the government declares a 100K tonne banana production quota for Maine, then Maine shall produce that much banana. If it doesn't it's obviously the fault of wreckers, hoarders and kulaks.

  • John||

    And when it doesn't, no one really needed bananas anyway. How much fruit does one person need?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    They increased the banana production from 20k tonnes last year to 21k tonnes this year! Such efficiency!

  • creech||

    I like the bumpersticker I saw on a pickup truck yesterday: "God Bless America...and the farmers feeding your fat ass."

  • XM||

    Just enroll in medicaid, and the problem is solved.

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