Millions of restaurant workers uninsured

    Leaders from the restaurant and insurance industries met in Philadelphia today to push new health insurance options targeted toward restaurant owners and their workers.

    Health benefits are not common perks for employees at restaurants. Several million restaurant workers nationally are uninsured. WHYY’s health and science reporter Kerry Grens has more on efforts to get them covered.
    (Photo: flickr/pamhule)

    The challenges for restaurant owners in offering benefits are many: low profit margins, high staff turnover, and many part time workers. Now, United Health Care has partnered with the National Restaurant Association to offer benefits that might appeal to employers who have typically not provided coverage.

    Alter: The two things we know about restaurant industry is they do have a large amount of working uninsured and those folks tend to be younger.

    Jeff Alter is the CEO of United Health Care’s Northeast Region. He says his firm is offering restaurant owners in this region four insurance plans — ranging from health care discount cards that don’t really act as insurance to fully comprehensive benefits packages.
    Dawn Sweeney, the CEO of the National Restaurant Association, says she hopes access to benefits will reduce the high turnover restaurants experience.

    Sweeney: We also hope the products will be portable so that if someone were to leave one restaurant and go to another they could still have access to products even though they may change employers.

    By 2014, many of these workers will be required to have health insurance. Alter says this push might get them covered sooner.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.