Manitoba extending health coverage to seasonal workers

The Manitoba government is ensuring that seasonal agricultural workers participating in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program have provincial health coverage while working in the province.

"Our government recognizes the hard and physically demanding work done by seasonal agricultural workers and we have heard the challenges they have faced with accessing health care," said Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Christine Melnick.

"Manitoba's economy relies on seasonal agricultural workers and we compete with other provinces to attract them here, which is why we're changing our health coverage to be in line with that already offered in Saskatchewan."

Effective this summer, seasonal agricultural workers will become eligible for Manitoba health coverage while they work in the province — waiving wait times for eligibility — which is consistent with the approach used in Saskatchewan.

There are between 300 and 400 workers who come from Mexico and Caribbean countries to do seasonal agricultural work in Manitoba every year. Currently, they are required to have health insurance through a private insurer and pay out-of-pocket for it.

"The decision to extend health-care coverage to this group of vulnerable workers, combined with other initiatives such as the Worker Recruitment and Protection Act, positions Manitoba as a strong leader among the provinces in providing important protections to migrant workers,” said Jennifer deGroot, co-chair, Migrant Worker Solidarity Network.

Manitoba has made a number of improvements to universal health coverage to ensure families living in the province have access to doctors and nurses when they need them, said the government, such as eliminating the health insurance waiting period for military families.

As well, after the federal government announced it was eliminating coverage for regular RCMP members and special constables effective April 1 of this year and reducing benefit levels for newly arrived refugees and refugee claimants, effective July 1, 2012, Manitoba extended universal care to ensure these individuals and their families would get the health care they need, said Melnick