86'd Healthcare

The Hospitality Industry's Health Insurance Dilemma

On May 6, 2011, I found myself in the back of an ambulance emergency speeding towards the emergency room.

My mind raced with a whirlwind of thoughts:

“Is this the end?  Will I miss work tomorrow?  Did I remember to feed Shaggy? 

And how the fuck will I pay for this ?”

Amidst this turmoil, the paramedics had to intubate me, a stark indication of the severity of my condition.

Like many in the food and beverage industry, I was without health insurance, adding a layer of stress to an already dire situation.

The reasons why I didn’t have insurance escape me now—perhaps I was too new at my job, or I might have missed the enrollment period.

Nonetheless, it was evident that this hospital visit—and the crisis it represented—could have been avoided.

This incident underscores the precarious nature of health and financial security in our industry, a reality all too familiar to many of us.

Years before this scare, I was diagnosed with asthma, a condition that could have been managed with proper medication. Yet, here I was, faced with a critical situation that highlighted the systemic failures affecting us all.

During that period of my life, I had been living in Las Vegas.

Mexico was just a few hours’ drive away. Without insurance, the practicality and affordability of crossing the border to obtain inhalers and other medications became necessary.

Consequently, I found myself not only sourcing my medical supplies but also assisting colleagues with their needs.

This arrangement, born out of necessity, proved to be simpler and more cost-effective for all of us.

Compounding the crisis, I spent 2 days in the hospital.

resulting in an overwhelming $22,000 bill.

And that was 13 years ago.

This exorbitant cost served as a harsh reminder of the steep price of lacking insurance in a healthcare system filled with obstacles to obtaining affordable care.

This ordeal didn’t just expose my risk; it underscored the widespread, systemic difficulties faced by countless individuals in the hospitality sector.

Hospital Bill

Jerry's Bill | Image by Jerbear


The day-to-day grind in our industry is well-known: long hours and the relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction.

Yet, when our health is on the line, support seems as distant as a bottle of Blanton’s (perpetually unavailable),

leaving us with less than we deserve and echoing my insights into the neglect faced by those in F&B.

The consequences of this neglect are all too real, affecting both personal well-being and business operations.

From working while sick because a doctor’s visit is unaffordable to the myth of mental health days in our industry, the impact is profound and far-reaching.

The domino effect of these challenges is undeniable.

Poor health not only compromises the quality of service but also contributes to a high turnover rate, as workers leave in search of better opportunities.

A study by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that nearly 90% of restaurant workers do not receive health insurance through their employers.

This lack of coverage leaves many workers vulnerable and often forces them to work while sick, further perpetuating health risks within the industry

Source: {Restaurant Opportunities Centers United}

What’s Next?

A New Era of Healthcare in Hospitality?

The industry is slowly but surely moving towards a model where healthcare (Mental & Physical) is seen as essential, not optional.

This change reflects a growing acknowledgment of the hard work and unique challenges faced by hospitality workers.

It’s about serving those who serve, ensuring they have the support they need to thrive both in and out of the workplace.

The Final Thought

The journey to comprehensive healthcare access in hospitality is ongoing.

While the full solution may still be simmering on the back burner, the industry’s steps toward acknowledging and addressing this issue are commendable.

There are several promising initiatives and options aimed at improving healthcare access for hospitality workers:


  1. National Restaurant Association (NRA) Health Insurance Programs: Offers affordable medical, dental, vision, and life insurance plans for restaurant and hospitality workers.


  1. Telemedicine Solutions: Companies like HealthTap provide virtual consultations, making healthcare more accessible and affordable for hospitality workers.


  1. Discount Prescription Programs: Programs like the Hospitality Rx Discount Card offer significant discounts on medications, easing the burden of high costs.

Let’s continue this conversation, pushing for a future where every hospitality professional has a seat at the healthcare table. By supporting and expanding these initiatives, we can work towards a more inclusive and supportive environment for all workers in the hospitality industry.


For more information on these programs, you can visit:

– Restaurant Healthcare (http://restauranthealthcare.org/)

– HealthTap Telemedicine (https://www.healthtap.com/)


To everyone in the hospitality industry, keep advocating for your health and well-being. The goal is a healthcare system that fully caters to your needs, and together, we can make it a reality.