The National Restaurant Association said it has partnered with insurance giant UnitedHealthcare in an effort to make health care coverage more accessible and affordable for foodservice operators and their employees.
The initiative, called "Restaurant Health Care Alliance," could help provide coverage for the 4 million to 6 million restaurant employees who currently are without insurance, according to Dawn Sweeney the NRA's president and chief executive. The industry employs about 13 million people.
"We're hoping the alliance will leverage the size of the entire [foodservice] industry," she said.
While details of the plans have not been hammered out, the NRA and UnitedHealthcare said they intend to provide a range of options that will be tailored to the restaurant industry.
"We're looking at developing a continuum of products," Sweeney said Friday during a press conference in Chicago announcing the alliance. She said plans could range from discount cards for those employees "who aren't ready to purchase full health insurance all the way to comprehensive coverage." Prices could start as low as $100 a month, she added.
In the meantime, the alliance has launched pilot programs in Pennsylvania and Colorado that will provide more information on what the industry needs and wants, she said.
Austin Pitman, chief growth officer for UnitedHealthcare, said the program also will offer support services, like a 24-hour health care hotline and wellness programs.
"We hope that by working together, we can make inroads in covering the people who don't have insurance," he said.
The program has been in development for two years.
Mike Gibbons, the NRA's chairman of the board, noted that the partnership with UnitedHealthcare would help alleviate the financial burden that national health care reform will put on the restaurant industry.
"The cost of health care reform could be potentially devastating," he said. "The alliance will give lower cost health care alternatives."
Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected].