National Restaurant Association president and CEO Dawn Sweeney released a statement regarding the introduction of an amendment to the U.S. Senate’s healthcare reform bill by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) that will help the nation’s small businesses and restaurants. The Landrieu amendment, which is also cosponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), would eliminate the monetary penalties imposed on employers for coverage waiting periods of 30 days to 90 days.

“The National Restaurant Association strongly supports Senator Mary Landrieu’s amendment for a 90-day waiting period for employers in the Senate health care legislation,” Sweeney’s statement read. “This pro-restaurant amendment would eliminate the onerous fees currently in the Senate bill for waiting periods of less than 90-days.

“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.

“We are working hard in this debate to protect our industry and the men and women who work in it, and we truly appreciate Senator Landrieu’s efforts on their behalf.”

The National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR) also responded to Sen. Landrieu’s action, thanking her and several of her colleagues for introducing the amendment.

“With this amendment Sen. Landrieu recognizes that a one-size-fits-all mandate on employers isn’t workable in all industries,” says NCCR vice president Scott Vinson. “The Landrieu amendment acknowledges the unique characteristics and workforce of service sector employers, including our wafer-thin profit margins and flexible workplaces, and we urge her Senate colleagues to support it.

“The restaurant industry is experiencing the worst decline in decades, and the Senate bill’s auto-enrollment penalties would have added insult to injury. There’s nothing quite like the threat of higher costs and penalties imposed from above by Washington to discourage employers from hiring. Sen. Landrieu’s amendment is welcome relief and a significant step in the right direction.”

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