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Health Care Groups Reach Out To Service Workers In Mississippi

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 16 Dec 2013 06:31pm | comments

Outreach groups are trying to sign up Mississippi service industry workers in health insurance on the new health care exchange. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that just 25-percent of service workers in the state are insured.

Arlene Wilson sits down with a health care reform Navigator to search for health insurance on the federal health insurance exchange.

Wilson is a 56-year old chef at a popular Jackson pizza restaurant.

She is also uninsured and has been for longer than she can remember.

"Because most jobs don't offer health care. And it is so high, we can't afford it. Most of us live from paycheck to paycheck," Wilson said.

Wilson is not alone, the majority of the people who work with her are uninsured and the restaurant only offers health insurance to full-time, salaried managers.

Which is a common restaurant practice to keep overall costs down says restaurant owner Jeff Good.

"If I were to choose to roll out a health care plan for the balance of all of our employees at each of our restaurants, that would put the cost structure of those businesses at a severe disadvantage," Good said.

Good brought health insurance navigators to one of his restaurants and invited his employees to sign up for insurance on the new exchange.

Navigator Kim Robinson, who works with the outreach group Cover Mississippi, says they are focusing specific attention on Mississippians in the service industry.

"Your bus drivers. Your restaurant and hotel employees. People who don't get full time hours and employers aren't responsible for covering," Robinson said.

As for Arlene Wilson the Cook, she was able to enroll health insurance.

"I got the premium plan. Which pays up to 90%. And I got a credit of $711. So the only thing I have to pay a month is 71-cents. Less than a dollar," Wilson said.

Wilson, and everyone else who signs up before December 23rd, will have her insurance start at the beginning of the year.

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