Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif issued a statement about the ruling by the Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its effect on the agricultural community:

“There is no other agricultural organization in the nation that has been as actively involved in the federal effort to reform healthcare,” Nassif said.  We have spent the last three years advocating on behalf of ag and then anticipating every possible outcome of the law and the challenges made to it in court.  We were prepared for today’s ruling, although I was surprised that the Supreme Court ruled the individual mandate was constitutional under the taxing powers of government.”

As an advocacy organization for the fresh produce industry, Western Growers provides employee health benefits plans to its members through Western Growers Assurance Trust, which is a multiple employer welfare arrangement.  Western Growers Assurance Trust offers many benefits options including cost-effective plans commonly referred to as mini-med plans.  These mini-med plans will continue to exist despite the impact of the ACA because Western Growers Assurance Trust received a waiver that remains effective until 2014. Thereafter, all health benefits plans offered by Western Growers Assurance Trust will comply with the ACA’s insurance market reforms.

“Our mission going forth will be to work with federal regulators to acknowledge the unique needs of ag employers and workers, including those improperly documented individuals for whom the ACA has no provisions,” continued Nassif.  “Congress and the Administration need to finish the work of the Act by making changes that truly recognize the legitimate healthcare needs of this population.  We began many of those discussions in the last two years and will pursue them with greater urgency now.  Our work has just begun again.”

Over the last several decades, Western Growers Assurance Trust has developed a special expertise in serving the mostly immigrant and rural farming community. “We have our work cut out for us here in California as well as in Arizona -- two states that differ widely in how each will address the implementation of the ACA,” Nassif said.  “In addition to continued advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento, we are mounting a comprehensive education and outreach program to keep all concerned employers informed about the changes, opportunities and requirements the new law will bring.”