November 09, 2020

Open enrollment: Time for restaurant employees to get health care benefits

The National Restaurant Association partners with UnitedHealth Group to offer restaurants choices of group health plans in states where UnitedHealthcare has plans, with member pricing on many products.

Health care and wellness in your workplace have never been more important, and restaurants have a major opportunity to let their teams know during the open enrollment period for employee benefits.

Traditionally, restaurateurs must make an effort to get eligible employees enrolled in the health care benefits the operation offers. And that effort might be compounded because—this year—restaurants are relying on their teams to face other operational challenges like never before.

Some effective approaches for a successful open enrollment include:

  • Starting in advance by padding the enrollment deadline by two weeks
  • Sending employees enrollment reminders via multiple means
  • Designating one employee per site as an enrollment emissary
  • Offering rewards for enrolling
  • Using technology and electronic enrollment options, or automatic re-enrollment setups

A recent webinar sponsored by the National Restaurant Association and hosted by Clinton Wolf, the Association’s senior vice president, Health and Insurance Services, outlines some good news in the midst of all the COVID-19-related bad news.

For all the latest health care benefit information for the restaurant industry, visit

Health care benefits that custom fit the needs of restaurant employees during this time are available as are some potential sources for financial relief.

From the Hill

Aaron Frazier, Association director of Healthcare and Tax Policy, provided information about restaurant advocacy efforts that could give both restaurants and employees more reasons to enroll in health care plans for 2021.

“With the help of members’ advocacy, the health insurance tax, or HIT, was eliminated in 2019, effective starting next year. That tax added 2%–4% to premium costs for employers and employees. We all know that health insurance is an important benefit to help retain employees.”

Federal relief efforts also could bolster enrollment if they make it through Congress, he says.

Relief could take one of three forms:

  • The RESTAURANTS Act, which earmarks $120 billion in grants for eligible restaurants
  • A second round of Payroll Protection Program that would make $257.6 billion available in the form of forgivable loans
  • The “RESTART” program that would make about $400 billion available as partially forgivable loans

In all cases, money can be used for health care plans. Finally, he says, employee retention tax credits (ERTC) also can be used toward health care insurance plans.

Insurance insights

Joining in, insurance expert John Pask co-founder and president, GoBenefits, Dallas, recommends leveraging electronic enrollment.

“There are good products and tools out there that make it simpler for employees to enroll online,” he says. During the pandemic, traditional in-person meetings aren’t recommended, and 68% of employees want online enrollment anyway, according to one survey he cites.

As you’re reviewing plans to offer during open enrollment, he adds, don’t forget about health conditions not related to COVID.  Look for the kinds of extras and programs tier-one insurers offer such as:

  • Digital experiences
  • Health4Me and Advocate4Me
  • Virtual visits
  • Behavioral health services
  • Employee assistance programs (EAP)
  • Quit For Life smoking cessation
  • Cancer support programs
  • Maternity support programs
  • Real Appeal diabetes program
  • Rally Wellness program

Association endorsed programs

The National Restaurant Association partners with UnitedHealth Group to offer restaurants choices of group health plans in states where UnitedHealthcare has plans, with member pricing on many products.

Kimberlee Vandervoorn, vice president, Optum Consumer Solutions, UnitedHealth Group, Eden Prairie, Minn., outlines some of the advantages and benefits of UnitedHealthcare plan offerings and other programs, including:

  • Exclusive pricing and plans for Association members
  • Unlimited Teladoc virtual visits for all employees (and their entire family) for $7 per mo. per employee which includes mental health, dermatology, back pain, nutrition and expert medical opinions-no insurance required
  • Free prescription drug savings program
  • Negotiated pricing on COVID-19 home testing kits along with a choice of 30 other tests
  • Free access to Kaia Health’s virtual online back pain management program
  • Free mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention resources

Each program is explained in the webinar. For more information on the webinar or the programs, contact the Association's Clinton Wolf.