Long line for culinary workers signing up for insurance

Michael Lopardi

Photo: Video by ktnv.com

Long line for culinary workers signing up for insurance

CREATED Dec. 3, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Thousands of culinary union members will have to visit their main union hall this year to sign up for health insurance.

Now, some want to know why the change and whether the office can handle the crowds?

The line snaked around the Commerce Street hall by late Tuesday morning. It was exactly what strip hotel server Christopher Elms was worried about.

"A lot of people are wondering: am I going to be able to get down in time?"  Elms said.

The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 said this is the first time the union is requiring roughly 55,000 members to visit the hall if they want insurance. The enrollment period is Dec. 3 to Dec. 21.

Typically, members who staff area hotels could enroll by phone. But with health care costs rising, the union said it wants to make sure only people who are eligible receive benefits, especially when it comes to family members. The goal is to cut down on fraud. 

The union said roughly 130,000 people receive health coverage through its health fund, which is funded by companies that employ union members. 

"I understand it's a big task. I understand why you're doing it. Just please, think about maybe extending this," Elms said.

Members lined up with verification documents, like marriage and birth certificates, in hand. 

"If I got to do it, I got to do it," said parlor worker Candace Cleveland. "I got to have insurance for my family."

Given the numbers, the union said it expects the long lines to continue for several days.

"We expecting to move quickly, the best we can, but it is over 50,000 people you know," said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, union secretary-treasurer.

Arguello-Kline said nearly 80 people are working inside and out to help get people enrolled. Union members must enroll by Dec. 21. The office is open Monday through Saturday.

Action News asked the union if they did enough to accommodate members during the enrollment period.

"We tried the best we can," said Arguello-Kline.

Arguello-Kline said health coverage through the union would continue to be free but people who do not stop by in person to enroll risk losing their benefits.

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