A Policy Analysis to Improve Healthcare Access For Restaurant Workers in Philadelphia

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Dr. James Plumb, Thomas Jefferson University

Dr. Rickie Brawer, Thomas Jefferson University

Abbie Santana, MPH, Thomas Jefferson University



The restaurant industry comprises an important and growing sector of the American economy. Despite this growth, many jobs in this industry provide low-wages and minimal employer-sponsored benefits. This compromises the health of the restaurant workforce and carries important public health implications including exposing the public to disease transmission and shifting the costs of uncompensated medical care. This project examined various policy initiatives that have the potential to improve healthcare access for restaurant workers in Philadelphia. The policies examined were: expanding health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, raising the minimum wage, mandating paid sick leave and developing local access to care programs. A literature review was conducted to determine the rationale behind the support for and opposition to each initiative. When available, evidence from previously enacted legislation was analyzed. While the Affordable Care Act will improve coverage for low-wage workers, it will still leave a significant portion of the restaurant workforce without insurance. Similarly, there is no evidence demonstrating that a higher minimum wage improves healthcare access. Paid sick leave, by contrast, has been shown to increase access to care and evidence from municipalities with mandated sick leave demonstrates both employer and employee support. Lastly, local access to care programs serve as an effective hybrid of insurance and traditional safety-net care that can provide affordable healthcare access for those who remain uninsured. Based on this information, it was determined that mandating paid sick leave and developing a local access to care program presented the best opportunity to improve healthcare access for restaurant workers in Philadelphia.

Presentation: 28 minutes