This Tennessee Brewery Offers Free Health Benefits

Although health insurance coverage is essential for health care in America, these offers continue to fail workers and put them in debt. How can employers relieve their workforce?

More than 90% of the US population has some form of health insurance, according to the Congressional Research Service. Yet Americans have a medical debt worth $195 billion, according to data from the Income and Program Participation Survey. For many Americans, that means the money they lose with every paycheck for their health plans won’t make a dent in the bloat. Health care costs. This small business decided to ease that burden by removing employee health insurance premiums from the equation.

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Since July, anyone working more than 29 hours a week at TailGate Brewery, a Tennessee-based restaurant chain, has been entitled to 100% covered health care benefits, which include a comprehensive health, vision and dental plan. preferred provider organization. While this benefit is rare in the restaurant industry, it’s much needed, says Liz Tarry, marketing manager at TailGate.

“We’ve seen how hard this industry has been hit by COVID and the nationwide need for health care, says Tarry. “Even though we are a small company, it is the responsibility of the employer to create a pleasant workplace for their team, and 100% covered healthcare is a step in this direction.”

TailGate is an independent craft brewery with five Tennessee locations and just over 150 employees. And like many restaurants over the past two years, he is aware of the mass exodus of workers who have left the service sector. Restaurant and hospitality workers have been at the forefront of the big quit, hitting an all-time high in November 2021, when one million service workers quit, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We need to think about how we can recruit great people and retain the great people we already have,” says Tarry. “We have to take care of them.”

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For Tarry, removing any financial burden of paying monthly health plan premiums signals to employees that their work is valued. Anyone who is not currently enrolled in TailGate’s health plan, but is eligible for it, will receive a cash stipend equal to what the company would have paid for the employee’s health care benefits up to the end of the year, when open enrollment is back and employees can officially register for the benefit.

TailGate also provides financial well-being to its workforce beyond its medical coverage. The brewery increased its 401(k) match by up to 4% and pledged to offer a $20 hourly wage as its base rate. Notably, servers are paid $2.50 an hour, just 37 cents more than the federal cash minimum wage for tipped employees. However, according to Tarry, waiters earn an average of $25 an hour with tips, which would equate to $48,750 a year for a full-time employee. That’s about $1,000 more than the average annual salary in Tennessee, but $3,000 less than the national average.

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Tarry points out that the company’s decision to cover healthcare benefits is just the start of their journey, and the team is considering expanding its PTO program, which currently does not extend to bartenders and barbacks. . While Tarry knows progress doesn’t happen overnight — their health benefits package lasted two years — she’s optimistic about the possible precedents TailGate can set for Tennessee’s restaurant industry.

“We aim to be the best place to work in Tennessee,” says Tarry. “We are delighted to make this investment and it is something we are grateful to do. We believe this is going to be beneficial for us and our team in the long run.