Sacramento Bee: Health care fix helps farmworkers and state budget

October 22, 2015

By Richard Pan and Arturo S. Rodriguez
Special to The Bee

Legislators were skeptical, and some reporters thought it was a trick. We were proposing progressive social policy to help farmworkers get health care that would actually subsidize the state’s general fund, not the other way around.

But with Senate Bill 145, we proved the impossible was possible. And Gov. Jerry Brown has signed the legislation into law for the next five years.
The Affordable Care Act permanently excludes undocumented immigrants from using their own money to purchase insurance on health exchanges. That means hundreds of thousands of farmworkers have access only to subsidized health care when they go to emergency rooms, where care is very expensive.

We found a solution that works for California, building on the Robert F. Kennedy Farm Worker Health Plan that Cesar Chavez created 46 years ago. The plan is governed by a board of farmers and farmworkers, and both groups contribute money for every hour worked. The trust fund then pays the medical bills for 13,000 farmworker family members, a total of $25 million last year.

The not-for-profit plan’s 5 percent administrative overhead beats any standard in America. But operating on a lean budget also meant the plan didn’t build up large enough reserves to pay for some catastrophic bills. The Affordable Care Act requires all health insurance coverage to be unlimited, but obligation would put the RFK plan into bankruptcy without more time to build reserves.

Farmers and farmworkers agreed to a series of self-help steps. They agreed to increase their contributions, plan administrators re-engineered benefits and the state helped the plan purchase stop-loss insurance to reduce the risks of catastrophic illnesses or injuries.

Over the past 15 months, these steps worked. The RFK plan is growing stronger by the month. More farmworkers are covered, more health care providers are lowering costs and the state general fund savings have materialized.

SB 145 caps state costs at $3 million for the next four years while securing continued farmer and farmworker contributions of no less than $25 million per year.

The end result will be an unprecedented success story. California will save $30 million in its general fund, farmworkers and their families will have $125 million in health care. And all of this will happen without waiting for any changes from Washington, D.C.

Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat, represents the state’s 6th Senate District. Arturo S. Rodriguez is president of the United Farm Workers of America.

February 21, 2017

SACRAMENTO – Dr. Richard Pan, a former UC Davis faculty member and Director of the UC Davis Pediatric Residency Program, made the following statement regarding the selection of Gary May, Ph.D. as UC Davis Chancellor:

Senate Bill 267 to foster public trust in our political system by providing cost-effective oversight

February 9, 2017

SACRAMENTO – Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and Senator representing the Sacramento region, announced today that he and Assemblymember Kevin McCarty have introduced a measure to allow the City of Sacramento to contract with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) to investigate and enforce the City’s campaign finance ordinance. 

SB 947 will focus staff time on moving families into the workforce and cut transportation expenses

September 29, 2016

SACRAMENTO – Senate Bill 947 to reduce red tape in the application process for the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program was signed by the Governor today. 

Since 2009, applicants for the CalFresh program, which offers food to families in need, have had the opportunity to be interviewed over the telephone.  Conversely, applicants for the CalWORKs program must be interviewed in-person, even in counties that would rather conduct interviews over the phone to improve efficiencies and better utilize limited staff time.