Nation's Restaurant News
May 21, 2010
NRA partners with UnitedHealthcare
By Paul Frumkin
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.
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.
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."
Comment: You would think that now that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is law, UnitedHealthcare, the nation's largest insurer in terms of revenues, would shape up its act by offering expansions of coverage compliant with the alleged intent of the law to provide adequate health insurance for everyone. That's what you might think, but you'd be wrong.
The National Restaurant Association (NRA) actively opposed PPACA. It's not too difficult to understand why. There are close to a million businesses in the restaurant industry, most of which operate on fairly narrow profit margins. Because of their sensitivity to overhead expenses, they have left millions of their food services workers with out any health care coverage whatsoever.
Congress recognized that requiring small businesses to offer all employees insurance coverage would create a significant financial burden for many of them. Thus they exempted businesses with less than 50 employees from the penalty for not providing coverage. But those with 50 or more employees will have to provide "minimum essential coverage" to avoid the penalty. That is defined in the law as providing an actuarial value of 60 percent, though NRA is continuing to lobby for regulations that would keep the more specific requirements to a minimum.
With the potential of gaining millions of new insurance customers from the restaurant industry alone, UnitedHealthcare is quite willing to craft the inexpensive products that the restaurant industry is seeking in response to the requirements imposed by PPACA. But discount cards? That's not even insurance! The other "lower cost health care alternatives" at best would be underinsurance products that will not protect restaurant employees nor their families who may develop health problems. Junk insurance is what they're selling!
This is UnitedHealthcare in action after PPACA has become law. It is clear that they have no intent to follow any other path than business as usual. Let's not go that route, but instead let's blaze a path to a single payer national health program. Then all restaurant workers (and everyone else) would have the health care that they and their families might need.