POV: Proposed legislation would help New York's farm families, Henderson, Democrat & Chronicle

By Elizabeth Henderson, Oct 9, 2019

Elizabeth Henderson farmed for over 30 years in Newark, Wayne County, and is a member of the Board of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York.

Despite New York farms being an essential part of the economy, many family-scale farmers (or their spouse) have to take an off-farm job that includes health insurance among its benefits. For the first 20 years of farming, I did not have any health insurance. I finally was able to afford a policy with big deductions when our farm’s customers, the members of our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), voted to raise the amount they paid us for shares of produce each week so that we could afford health insurance. Knowing that we worked long hours in all kinds of weather using equipment that can be dangerous, they wanted us to have coverage.

It is a financial stretch for farmers to provide the most basic coverage for our employees, not to mention comprehensive coverage that includes vision, dental, hearing, mental health and long-term care and support services. Employer health coverage spending as a share of payroll is up more than 50 percent in a decade, and many farmers pay even higher percentages than larger companies.

The New York Health Act will guarantee comprehensive coverage to every resident and make care accessible by removing means-testing and financial barriers to healthcare. Eliminating the financial burden for employers to buy health coverage will make New York farm jobs more attractive. And the New York Health Act guarantees coverage regardless of immigration status. (By official estimates, over half the workers on NY farms are undocumented. ) The New York Health Act will alleviate the burden that many immigrants face in navigating the complexity of health insurance plans, many of which exclude their participation completely....

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