Hispanic advocates and legislators in Minnesota have come across an "obscure state law" that requires certain employers to provide health insurance to migrant workers, but the law never has been enforced, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
In 1971, the state Legislature passed a law requiring employers with five or more migrant workers to provide them with health insurance. However, no rules have been written for the law, and government officials largely are unaware of it, the Star Tribune reports. James Honerman, a spokesperson for the state Department of Labor and Industry, said the deadline to make any rules for the law expired in 1997.
According to the Star Tribune, an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 migrant workers travel to Minnesota annually, mostly to harvest, process and package fruit and vegetables. Such workers are exposed to agricultural and cleaning chemicals that can lead to respiratory problems and skin rashes, and many have diabetes and work-related stress, according to advocates. Most migrant workers receive health services from subsidized health clinics or hospital emergency departments.
Bobbi Ryder, CEO of Texas-based National Center for Farmworker Health, said she is unaware of any state that requires employers to pay for migrant workers' health insurance. She asked, "Does Minnesota have the same law for workers in all industries? If it does, of course migrant workers should be covered (by such a law). If it doesn't, the law seems lopsided," adding, "There are many other workers who don't have health insurance either."
Honerman said officials will review the law if the state ever receives a complaint about not enforcing it.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation