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Healthcare needs of farm worker families

1 August 2001


Purpose: Farmworker families in Washington County historically come from countries with little opportunity for financial independence. Furthermore, healthcare is almost non-existent in their native lands. The Housing Development Corporation of Washington County has been addressing and assisting this population with the former problem since 1981, and now they will be broadening their services to include healthcare issues. This project represents a pilot project designed to assess the healthcare needs of HDC residents residing in Montebello, Reedville, Elm Park, and Cornelius Park. From their Tenant Survey of last year, the HDC identified healthcare as a major concern for residents of these four complexes. Project objectives include assessing health insurance coverage rates for this population, identifying potential barriers preventing this population from obtaining health insurance, and pursuing enrollment in state-run healthcare programs.

Methods: Healthcare questionnaires were distributed to the four HDC complexes, and site visits were used to follow-up and assist with those questionnaires, as well as enroll qualified residents in the Oregon Health Plan. The healthcare questionnaire was used to assess vital information such as household size and monthly income, both criteria for OHP eligibility, in addition to information that may pose a barrier for this population, such as education level, language spoken, current health insurance status, and past utilization of medical services.

Results: Despite a response rate of only 22.4%, 78% of respondents were uninsured. Unfortunately, the summer months generate the greatest income for the agricultural community, decreasing their chances of enrolling in OHP. In addition, the summertime decreases the number of hours a family has to spend with other, hindering meeting times and response rates. With a majority of respondents, thirty-six of forty-one, visiting some form of medical facility in the past year, and only nine households already possessing some form of insurance, healthcare coverage is desperately needed in this community.

Conclusion: Low-income farmworkers of Washington County are undersubscribed to the Oregon Health Plan despite eligibility and obvious need. In addition, they face barriers present in the system that is supposed to help them, as well as in their own culture, that prevent them from obtaining coverage. Finally, subsequent research in this area should take place, but should be conducted at a different time of year, when adequate time is available for meetings, and when income levels are more favorable for qualification.


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