Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Star-Telegram employees getting the squeeze

McClatchy employees have been hit in 2009 with unpaid furloughs and wage reductions. Now comes benefit cuts: employees at the Star-Telegram were told Monday more medical costs are being shifted to employees. A reader emailed me this summary.

The "significant changes in medical plans" announced Monday by the Star-Telegram amount to another pay cut and shifting more costs to employees.

Premiums are going up a whopping 30% for employee-only coverage and 19% for families on the most popular plan called Choice, which lets employees choose care in and out of the network.

Premiums will increase 29% (employee) and 23% (family) in an HMO-like plan, and 22% (employee) and 12% (family) in a bare-bones plan for routine care.

McClatchy will be paying only 76% of the premium. That compares to 80% when we were a Knight Ridder paper. BTW: 100% company-paid insurance was not unheard of 20 years ago at some papers. So employees will pay nearly 25% of the insurance bill.

The Aetna rep who described the changes most often used the word "increase" when discussing co-pays, deductibles and drug costs, adding that the higher premiums were needed to offset the higher costs.

The most telling part of the meeting was when one reporter who was irked by the huge hikes in premiums asked the rep how much higher the Star-Telegram's health bill was in the past year. Well, the flustered Aetna rep was knocked off her script and could only say, "I don't have that figure, but if you will leave me your business card, I'll get back to you."

Hmm. Methinks neither Aetna (which needs to make more profit to satisfy shareholders) or McClatchy (which mistakenly thinks it can cut its way to prosperity) wants you to know that number.

Just like publisher Gary Wortel. When he came on the scene a couple of years ago he gave a presentation to employees detailing the paper's compensation costs and downward trends in revenue. But when asked how much profit the paper made in the previous year (it was easily around $50 million) his response was: "We don't give out that information, but thanks for asking."



Anonymous said...

To paraphrase the old saying: if you put Gary Wortel's head on the body of a duck, it would fly north for the winter. Goodness knows he wouldn't lower himself to living in Fort Worth.

Anonymous said...

"McClatchy will be paying only 76% of the premium."


Only? Give me a break. That's a whole lot better than none. Health insurance is a benefit, not a right.

Anonymous said...

Disdain for newspapers - McClatchy ones in particular - aside, health insurance is going to cost a lot more for anyone working in any industry. This isn't just a newspaper cost problem.

BTW, 76 percent employer-paid, down from 80 percent? Boohoo. Sounds pretty good to me. Try COBRA once the stimulus paydown ends.

Anonymous said...

This isn't just a newspaper cost problem.

Bullshit. This isn't an increase inducded by the insurance industry. It is an increase induced by McClatchy...PERIOD

Anonymous said...

McCrappy looks at it this way: You're lucky to still have a job so STFU!

Anonymous said...

Bullshit. This isn't an increase inducded by the insurance industry. It is an increase induced by McClatchy...PERIOD


Capitalism hurts sometimes doesn't it. You are supportive of capitalism, right?

Anonymous said...

The 76% company-paid premium might sound good to some, but not for this mediocre plan.
Employees pay 20% of the bill for "reasonable and customary charges," which are based on Aetna's profit margin, not the actual charges of medical providers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. So employees actually are paying more than 20% in co-pays.
And if McClatchy keeps shifting the cost of the plan every year there won't be much of a "benefit" left, much less a right to health care, as is the case in most other Western industrial democracies.

Anonymous said...

These outsize hikes in premiums are just one part of the big picture: The average Star-Telegram employee's comp package is about $5,000 a year LESS when you add up the cutbacks in pension, 401(k) plan, reduced dental benefit,pay cuts, pay freezes and the near elimination of overtime pay.
All this has happened since McClatchy bought the paper, which is probably the most profitable one in the chain. How's that for rewarding hardworking employees?

Anonymous said...

12:12... Even if there was a right to health care, there is no right to force someone else pay for your health care.

You have a right to make decisions and choices that you feel are best for you. If, however, you make poor choices and decisions, you have no right to expect others to pay for your mistakes.

If you can not afford health insurance it is not the insurance companies fault. Your inability to afford it is the result of decisions and choices you have made based on the priorities you have set for yourself. You probably can not afford a BMW M-5 either but that is not BMW's fault.

Of course if you do have a BMW M-5 and still can't afford insurance, you probably need to question your priorities.

Anonymous said...

MNI among "left for dead" stocks worth buying:


Wall Street equivalent of vultures picking the bones?

Anonymous said...

Honestly, why would anyone stay at the Star-Telegram? There have been several opportunities over the past few years to escape from the sinking ship and take a big buyout package with you. Seems that getting paid to leave is a heck of a lot preferable to working under constant threat of layoff, pay cuts, furloughs, shrinking benefits, etc, all while top management flails around like frightened children. Seems like all the smart people took the money and ran (starting with Wes Turner!)

Anonymous said...

Honestly, why would anyone stay at the Star-Telegram?

What is left is all Affirmative Action Socialists. If they can get a government ticket, it won't matter if they are losing money, they still get a free ride on your dime.

It's a gamble, but if you're a free riding welfare socialist it is one worth taking. It isn't like they work for a living.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure why everyone is worried about the change in medical benefits package......Good Ol' Obama is going to change everything and everyone in America including the illegals will be rich and have medical coverage and not have to work.

MNI is doing their best to "offshore" all jobs and downsize to bare bones so that they can to help the process be achieved sooner.

Wheeze all got Change a 'comin....and ain't it great?

Take heart...soon Corporate America and the 'Gubment will be the only ones raking in money and they can pay for everything for everybody or face the next American Rebellion of the masses.
Load your guns.......and plant a garden. One Chicken, One Pig, a 4 packages of seeds for every household!

Anonymous said...

Maybe their "Watchdog" Dave Lieber and that hack "business writer" Barry Shlachter can team up, investigate these cuts and write a crafty snark piece. That'll learn 'em!!

Anonymous said...

Except for Rex and JMB, seems like everyone else who has left the FWST is going great. No surprise on these two, who have zero communication skills. The ass kissing finally caught up to them!

Anonymous said...

Chris ballard voted for Obama- he sucks as a pressman