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More than 500,000 Pennsylvania restaurant workers will soon have access to health insurance and related products and services through a new private health alliance unveiled by business, industry and political leaders, including Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell, in Philadelphia.

The Restaurant Health Care Alliance is a joint project of the National Restaurant Association and UnitedHealthcare. The Alliance, partnering with the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, provides a suite of health care products that will help more than a half of a million restaurant employees working in the state of Pennsylvania receive easier, lower-cost access to health care coverage and related products and services. In addition, it will help restaurant owners and employees understand their health care coverage options as well as tax and eligibility changes that are occurring in 2010 and beyond. It is available to restaurant owners and employees, as well as insurance agents and advisers who serve the restaurant industry.

The restaurant industry is an important part of Pennsylvania’s economic engine. For every extra $1 million spent in Pennsylvania’s eating and drinking places, an additional 29.8 jobs are created in Pennsylvania. The restaurant workforce in Pennsylvania is made up of 532,900 people, representing 10 percent of total employment in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is one of four states selected by the Alliance for pilot projects for what is expected to become a nationwide health benefits product available to the 13 million American food service industry employees. Between 4 and 6 million food industry workers across the country are without health coverage at any given time.

“As the nation’s second-largest private-sector employer with 13 million employees, America’s restaurants are dedicated to providing affordable, accessible, and high quality options of health care for our workers,” said Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association president and CEO. “Our members will benefit [through this program] through easier access to affordable health care coverage for their employees and dependents and allow for future opportunities to provide added benefits. We are committed to reducing costs in the health care system, improving access to the best doctors, and providing incentives for employees to remain in our restaurants.”

“We are excited about this unique opportunity to partner with the National Restaurant Association to tailor health care information and products that best meet the needs of restaurant owners and employees,” said Jeff Alter, CEO of UnitedHealthcare, Northeast Region.

For more information, please visit http://restauranthealthcare.org.

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