As Casinos Reopen, Workers Say Affordable Health Insurance More Important Than Ever

Jun 16, 2020

Labor union Unite Here Local 1 says Ameristar, a casino in East Chicago, is the only one of the four that doesn't allow workers to buy the union's health insurance.
Credit (Justin Hicks/IPB News)

As Indiana casinos reopen, they’re implementing sanitization and distancing standards at gaming sites, but some workers say one important virus-prevention strategy is being left out: access to affordable health insurance.

Labor union Unite Here Local 1 recently surveyed more than 200 workers at three Indiana casinos and one in Illinois about their access to health insurance. It says Ameristar, a casino in East Chicago, is the only one of the four that doesn't allow workers to buy the union's health insurance. As a result, workers there reported significantly higher rates of having to insure children through public programs like Medicaid and having $1,000 or more in medical debt.

Workers at several other casinos in Indiana have staged rallies in recent months asking their casinos to provide better health insurance plans with lower premiums.

READ MORE: Indiana Casinos Get Green Light From State To Reopen

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana 2020 Two-Way. Text "elections" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on COVID-19 and the 2020 election.

Sabrina Abrams is a specialty line cook at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City. She’s able to get cheaper health insurance through the union and says other casinos should allow it, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It’s definitely needed,” she says. “I would think that the company would want the people that service them on the floor to be in top shape.” 

Abrams added that opening day went well, but employees are staying vigilant around potential safety issues that could spread COVID-19 to workers or patrons. 

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.