MIGRANT WORKERS: Health Care Advocate Wants Budget Increase
Continuing her advocacy work for migrant farm workers, Teresa Macias, a Tulare County health professional and member of the National Advisory Council on Migrant Health, "voiced hope that Congress will approve the modestly bigger migrant health budget proposed by the Clinton administration," the Denver Rocky Mountain News reports. "We do with what we get. It would be nirvana to get more [money], because we're continuously challenged," Macias explained on Friday. The federal government at present spends about $100 million annually on migrant health care. The Clinton administration proposed adding roughly $5 million more to this year's budget. The increase, although relatively small, would "trickle down" and help Macias operate four clinics needed to provide services for the farmworker population in Tulare County. At the Porterville headquarters of the Family Healthcare Network, Macias explained that few patients are insured, so the clinics rely on a $750,000 federal grant. Macias said, "We do what we can to bring money in." Clinton's proposed 5% increase to the fund would add roughly $37,500 each year Macias' grant. But, given that the program charges farmworkers a nominal fee of $20 for enrollment, "tiny dollars add up."
Ms. Macias Goes to Washington
On Friday, Macias met with the National Advisory Council on Migrant Health in Washington, D.C., just prior to receiving news that an accident in Goshen, California -- not too far from her network's Visalia Clinic -- injured 16 farm workers. Fourteen of the workers were riding in an illegal farm-labor van. "People should not be subject to the conditions that the farmerworkers are. We have to stop looking at them as commodities," Macias told the panel. Most of her colleagues agree that improvements are needed in migrant health services, and advisory council member Rafael Martinez said, "Why isn't it possible to get national care, like Medicare, for this small population? We are very frustrated" (Doyle, 2/11).