MEDIA
11/27/2013 11:24 am ET

Oregon Newspaper Publisher Cuts Health Insurance Benefits To Employees

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Oregon newspaper publisher Western Communications informed its employees on Monday that they could no longer provide them with health insurance benefits, cutting off 280 employees from the company health insurance plan starting January 1 2014.

Jim Romenesko reported the story first on Tuesday, stating that the family-owned company claims that cutting health care was the only way to avoid serious lay-offs. President and publisher of the Bulletin newspaper owned by Western Communications, Gordon Black, wrote a memo to his employees in an effort to provide explanation:

“This decision was not made lightly,” he wrote. "We would not be doing this if it wasn’t absolutely essential for the well-being of the company and by extension, you as an employee. We remain committed to the success of Western Communications, its mission and its employees."

The company emerged from bankruptcy protection last year, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, and has been a self-insured health care plan.

Read the full memo from Gordon Black below:

TO: WesCom Employees
FR: Gordon Black
RE: Health Insurance

2013 has been another expensive year for WesCom with regard to health care costs. As you know, we are self-insured. That means that the company pays all medical costs for employees and their famiiies, over­ and above the portion paid by the empioyee.
Gordon Black
Gordon Black

In a still struggling economy, and today’s changing world of health care, we can no longer provide that benefit. That means, effective January 1, 2014 our company-sponsored plan will cease. This decision was not made lightly. We considered and researched every conceivable alternative. We found nothing was fair or affordable. We determined that we could not be competitive with the various plans offered by Cover Oregon or Cover Cafifornia. And if we offered a pian, employees would not be eligible to take advantage of the federal subsidies offered through these state exchanges.

It’s important to know that through Cover Oregon and Cover California financial subsidies are available to help many pay for their insurance. For example, a family of four making less than $94,200 may be eligible for financial assistance, as may a family of three making less than $78,120, or single individual making less than $45,960. Frankly, if your household income exceeds these limits you’re probably better off buying a policy outside of the state exchange.

Fortunately, other options are available in the marketplace in addition to CoverOregon or Cover California. we have engaged insurance experts to help each of us through this process and we are committed to doing everything we can to make this transition as smooth as possible. There will be no administrative cost for this assistance. As soon as the details are finalized, you will get a schedule of available times when you can meet with a professional to walk you through the process.

On a more positive note, it appears that we will again be able to participate in Oregon’s Work Share program in 2014. That additional benefit, combined with a possible federal subsidy and the money you are already spending for coverage should ensure a manageable transition. We are also working to maintain the flex plan option to pay for out-of-pocket medical, dental and child care expenses with pre-tax dollars.

And finally, let me reiterate something very important. We would not be doing this if it wasn’t absolutely essential for the well-being of the company and by extension, you as an employee. We remain committed to the success of Western Communications, its mission and its employees.

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