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Contributor

Re: Medical care for ag employees

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As we set up our health insurance plan and medical reimbursement plan for this year, it would be very helpful to have a professional article on the legal ramifications and limits especially if there are changes brought about by the ACA. I need nuts and bolts ideas and legal rules.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Medical care for ag employees

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We have both full time employees(5), part time summer and H2a visa employees (4) and owner partners (3).

A few years ago we established a group plan that offers paid health insurance to employees and owners.  The farm pays premium for full time employees and owner partners.  Runs about $5K a month for the 8 qualified.

The labor department requires work comp. for the H2a's while they are here. We provide it and a it is terrible investment.  We would rather provide paid medical insurance.  That is what we did until the labor department forced us to do WC.

The only fairness issue we have is providing the opportunity for coverage.  If an employee opts out of our coverage for their spouces coverage it is their choice. -------the first year I provided health insurance, I had 2 employees and one of them quit over this issue.  He did not want the health insurance, he wanted the $500/month it cost instead.  I told him I was providing health insurance not cash above his salary and other benefits.  With a wife pregnant and 3 children he said, "Your crazy, I do not need insurance to go to the hospital or go to the clinic."  He was taking home more pay than I was but had learned to lie to get the benefits.

 

I have personally helped employees with medical bills. ( This has to be the most expensive place in the world for dental work and very over rated.)  I try not to, we try to pay well enough for the employee to handle their obligations.  

No matter how much you pay.  Some will have little.  Charity does not fix that.  Fairness should create opportunity ----Beyond that  abilities and financial wisdom were not handed out evenly.

 

Safety meetings,  yes,  But as farm160 stated.  We don't always get them documented well.

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Frequent Contributor

Re: Medical care for ag employees

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Kay,

 

You're very welcome. I'm so glad that the Certified Safe Farm review worked out well for you and your family.

Thanks for your perspective on this issue.

 

--Cheryl Tevis

Successful Farming

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Frequent Contributor

Re: Medical care for ag employees

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Thanks so much for your input on this issue. I appreciate your comments on the shortfalls of worker's comp for your H2a employees.

Your experience concerning the employee with a wife and growing family who wanted the cost of the health insurance premium as cash is a sad commentary on how some people take advantage of the system. As you point out, all you can do is offer employees fairness and the opportunity to protect themselves in the health and safety arena.

 

--Cheryl Tevis

Successful Farming

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Veteran Contributor

Re: Medical care for ag employees

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Like you, we have workers compensation.  Costly but offers protection. 

I agree with your statement "No matter how much you pay.  Some will have little.  Charity does not fix that.  Fairness should create opportunity ----Beyond that  abilities and financial wisdom were not handed out evenly."

 

I feel we pay a fair wage, but sometimes people need to evaluate priorities and choices in budgets.  Caring for a host of animals (horses, dogs, cats, skunks, etc) or racking up huge vet bills to save an old animal while neglecting to pay real estate or income taxes does not make sense.  

 

When we did offer the medical reimbursement, I believe there was "double dipping" going on.  I learned an employee's spouse was also given reimbursement up to the amount of their deductible, so paid medical bills could be submitted both places for reimbursement.  When I asked if they considered that fraud they said they didn't see anything wrong with it.  Perhaps a loophole, but not ethically right. 

 

 

 

 

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Honored Advisor

Re: Medical care for ag employees

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Double dipping  for reimbursements is fraud.  Reimbursement means you cover a bill not paid by other means.  Taking it twice is dishonest.  I would find a new worker.

 

Priorities are the real problem, as you say.  Cell phones with huge contracts, tattoos, fancy rimsna d car stereos, etc., are issues we see all around us.  Yet, an annual property tax bill or a car insurance bill becomes an"emergency".  Yeah, when you don't plan for it, it does!

 

 

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Honored Advisor

Re: Medical care for ag employees

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Cheryl,

 

Cheryl,  Good luck with this issue.

 

Young people on temporary H2a assignments like harvest crews in the midwest are operating equipment for the most part.  They are in a really bad spot on this issue.  WC does not cover what they need.  They are much more likely to need medical attention for the flu, pnemonia, dental, food poisoning,  appendicitis, broken glasses, lost contact lenses, allergies etc. --- than a work related accident.

 

My early experience with the attitude toward health insurance is not a rare issue.  The H2a guys we get are better educated and americanized than the local workforce that has been here for a while.  

 

When I finally decided I was going to find a way to avoid the illegal worker issue so I could offer a workforce benefits like medical insurance and tech training, one of the steps in that direction has been the H2a program.  

 

It is hard to concentrate on benefits like medical insurance and ignore the outside influences that affect our ability to care for and maintain workers.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Medical care for ag employees

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Farm160,

 

Since we live with a foot in both worlds ----- employees relying on WC and full time's employees with no cost medical ins.  It is like the worst of both worlds.  And the expensive best of both worlds.

 

big questions arise.  WC------- when does work related injury stop and personal foolishness begin?  If he gets hurt in a fight at a stop on the way home, is it a WC claim?   If an employee takes a farm vehicle home and uses it for personal use on a sunday afternoon has an injury, can he go to the emergency room and file a WC claim on you to keep from having to pay his personal deductable on the medical insurance his employer provides?

My experience is --------- the employee will file it on his medical insurance but will expect us to pay the deductable.

---------------------

Self serving, irresponsible employees do not get better with better benefits.  

 

And my grandfathers favorite --------- " Poor people have poor ways!"

--------------------

 

Cheryl,   We would have to get a lot stricter about vehicles and procedures for each activity in a full coverage WC employer, but for the most part I think WC is almost unworkable in farming.

 

Our experience providing group coverage for employees has been very positive and appreciated by most.  But it does give you another level of personal involvement in their lives.  And another chance to view the character of the members of your group.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Honored Advisor

Re: Medical care for ag employees

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Due to a losing lawsuit against our integrator a few years back, we were told to take worker's comp, and have them named as an additional insured.  I am sure some growers did this, as we did, and others did not. 

 

Our farmowers' had some built-in comp coverage, which we had felt was sufficient for our needs to that point.  I keep the comp now, because we have had to go through a fair number of people  to get from one stable employee, who left after several years to buy his own home at some distance from our farm, to the one we have now.  The ones in  between were scary...smart enough to scam the system, not smart enough to see that working for a living can be worthwhile. 

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Veteran Contributor

Re: Medical care for ag employees

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Yes sw363535 I can see where you're paying dearly.

Definitely agree that there can be blurry lines.  We've tried to eliminate much of that so there's a distinction between when they are on the job or off the job.  Awhile back we had a situation that really blurred the lines.  I filed the claim knowing there was another entity also filing the claim and also knowing the employee had prior personal issues contributing to the claim.  I wanted it documented so the statute of limitation began.  Ultimately we were told we were not responsible.  I didn't ask the employee who ended up paying - whether it was the other WC company or his personal insurance.

 

Years ago we had a situation where a guy worked for us less than a month and filed a WC claim.  Ended up having back surgery,  months off the job, high dollar.  We held the job for him but as soon as he got the "return to work" paper, he said he had another job and left.  Several years later he submitted additional claims on our WC policy relating to the old back injury.  Fortunately our WC company worked for us.  Plus I had pictures from his website of him doing construction work and heavy lifting, obviously indicating he had several years of good health or other issues that may have triggered the recent claims.  We still question that whole deal.

 

I have a niece who is a work comp attorney in another state.  Apparently laws vary by states.  As I understood her, in some states it might not matter if an actual accident occurred on worksite, but if you're the unlucky employer who happens be employing the guy when an injury occurs (ie knee or back finally give way), then you'll be the one whose WC will pay up.  And ultimately it will effect the premiums.  

 

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