NRA lobbies for provisions in health care reform

Dec. 8, 2009
National Restaurant Association president and CEO Dawn Sweeney has overseen a number of changes to the organization since coming to the group from AARP in 2007. As part of her duties, she has been making sure that the association is part of the discussion on health care reform, according to a story by Politico.
Sweeney is lobbying for several amendments that would benefit the industry's 13 million employees, many of whom work part time. The amendments the association supports include:
  • Extending the waiting period for new employees to gain insurance coverage from 30 days to 90 days to accommodate the industry's high turnover rate
  • Adding an exemption for restaurants with up to 100 employees instead of the 50-employee exemption for all small businesses in the Senate bill
  • Adjusting the definition of full-time employee to number of hours worked in a quarter as opposed to weekly because of the nature of the industry's work demands
Sweeney today praised Sen. Mary Landrieu for her introduction of an amendment to the U.S. Senate's health care reform bill regarding the 90-day waiting period. She said in a statement:
Senator Landrieu's pro-small-business, pro-worker amendment will enable restaurant operators to provide our employees the highest quality benefits at the most affordable price. On behalf of the nation's nearly 1 million restaurants and its 13 million employees, we thank Senator Landrieu for her outstanding leadership.
Due to the restaurant industry's average annual turnover rate of 75 percent of the workforce, a 90-day waiting period is critical. Restaurateurs want to offer affordable health coverage for our employees and lower the cost of that coverage. By allowing a 90 day waiting period, restaurant operators will be able to keep the cost lower for premiums of their employees that stay with the restaurant long term.
We strongly believe a 90-day waiting period before coverage requirements begin could have a significant impact on lowering health-care costs our restaurateurs provide their employees – for both new and current employees. This reasonable waiting period will mitigate the resources spent to cover employees who have no intention of staying with the organization for an extended period of time.
Sweeney also is working in other ways to reduce health care costs for restaurant workers.
From Politico:
No matter what the outcome of the national reform debate, Sweeney is still planning to make big changes in her own group's approach to health care.
Borrowing from her AARP experience, she is negotiating with health insurance companies to create a unique set of policies that can be sold to her members through the restaurant association.
The program has the potential to make health benefits available for small-restaurant owners and become an income generator for the association. A pilot program is scheduled for launch in January in Colorado and Pennsylvania. By midsummer, Sweeney hopes to be offering association-endorsed insurance in many other states.

Topics: National Restaurant Association , Operations Management

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