To call or not to call?

This week we were informed that if we were currently enrolled in our insurance program and worked less than an average of 30 hours per week our premiums were increasing, BUT we would be allowed to maintain our coverage.  IF you work less than an average of 30 hours a week and did NOT currently have insurance you would not be eligible.  This is a big change over the old policy.  Although a few people at work bitched about the increase in our premiums not much else was said.

This email arrived today from a co-worker:

Hey everyone – so as you all know, our health insurance plans have

changed drastically.  For many who TRIED to sign up, you couldn’t

because you needed 30 hrs/week average.  For those ALREADY with health

insurance, here’s something you DON’T know… your rates go up A LOT

if you stay between 19-30 hours, but if you start averaging OVER 30

hours, you can’t slip beneath that 30 hr/week mark or you lose your

insurance all together!  This means you have to average 19-30 hours a

week permanently OR stay at 30+ hrs/week permanently!

These are ridiculous new insurance policies that are being attributed

to Obama’s health plan.  This is NOT Obama, this is our restaurant  We

write our health insurance checks to “_______________.”

So what can we do?

There’s only one thing we can do… call corporate and complain.  Now

this seems like a really useless thing to even try and do, but I think

that if we can pool all our contacts from our stores all over the country,

we might be able to make a big enough stink to NEGOTIATE these

policies.  We should not have to worry about losing our benefits

simply because our corporation doesn’t want to pay.

Everyone who has ever worked at any of our other stores would have to call and

email their buddies… collectively, we know people all over the country.  If people all across the

country start calling, and complaining, and demanding a fair insurance

policy, maybe, just maybe, they will consider rewriting the policy

with a voice from their employees.

This is our HEALTH INSURANCE email thread…. this is the corporate

number: #########.  Once we get everyone on board across the

country, we should start calling in droves.  I think our best bet is

to start on February 1st.  We need to make a campaign out of this if

we want anything to change, and WE ALL NEED TO PITCH IN.  Let’s

forward this to all our friends at different stores so we can at least

put up a fight.  Let’s grow this email list across the country!

Who’s with me?!?

Followed by this email from the same person:

I’ve already gotten a few responses and comments, and I’d like to respond.  Many people have told me health insurance is the most important reason for working at our restaurant.  Many of us NEED it for specialists, physical therapy, family dependents, etc.  So please read on…

Question: Where have you gotten your facts?
Answer: I’ve had contact with both the  health line, as well as a an  employee from another store who was told exactly what I explained before.  I also called corporate to ask questions regarding a the health policy changes.  I was directed to the voicemail of a woman named Emily I believe.  No response yet.  Both the health line operator and the employee verified this: If you make it to 30+ hours average in one quarter, and you drop below that the next quarter, then you have one quarter to make it back to 30+ hours or you lose your insurance.  From then on, you need 30+ average to re-enroll during open enrollment. Essentially they are trying to legally stop coverage of their many part time employees.  Because we are a seasonal business, most of us are part-time in January, February, September and October at least!

Question: Is this a NY thing or is it all across the US?
Answer: It is company-wide, and therefore all across the US.  There may be things that differ from state to state, though I have no knowledge of this.  I do know that  health line said it’s company-wide, and I know other stores got the same letters we did.

Question: Can we send a letter to our congressman or the media?
Answer: We can most definitely write a politician, though I think this is pretty useless.  Talking to media is very much against rules, so if done, would have to be done anonymously.  This could be effective, but we’re not there yet.  In reality, a campaign to call corporate and inundate them with complaints is the best immediate course of action.  Once we get a response of some kind, we can evaluate the next logical step if anything.

***Again, please talk to your co-workers and friends.  We work in a seasonal industry, and these policies put us in a position to lose our most important benefits.  They want us to give great customer service but threaten the most basic of our needs.  So call everyone you know.  Get them on this email chain!

My two cents thrown in I sent in return:

Something to consider:

Not one person was scheduled 30 hours this week.  Even the people scheduled four shifts, and they were few, worked less than 30 hours.  In fact the only way to get 30 hours is to work four night shifts and stay till closing.  And when I say closing I mean closing.  If you clock out at exactly 1:00 a.m. you have only worked for 7.5 hours after your 30 minute break.  Times 4 is exactly 30 hours.  If you work one minute less during the week your average falls below 30 hours and Corey’s explained the rest.

As all of you know I work mostly cocktail shifts and there is NO way I can maintain that average and I’m at work till closing every night.  I’d have to be guaranteed four shifts a week, and never call in sick, give up a shift, or be bumped because it would only take a few of those to bring me below that 30 hour mark.

The new plan essentially means that no new front of house staff will be eligible for healthcare because of how we are staffed and scheduled.  As I was discussing tonight, management would seriously have to cut our staff by at least 1/4 so that we all could be scheduled 5 to 6 shifts every week.  And that’s just the night staff.  If you work only days the struggle becomes even more difficult because you work 6 or 7 hours per shift.

I do agree with Corey that although it’s being attributed to Obamacare I really think it has more to do with the restaurant’s  bottom line.  They have to kick in money to provide us healthcare and so the fewer included the better.  Which explains why our premiums are going up because there are fewer of us.   I also know that the number one reason I came back to work at here was to have healthcare.  The job loses great value if that is taken away.  I have no idea whether his suggestion and ideas will work. I do know that it can’t hurt, and trust me they won’t fire you for complaining.

What do you guys think?  Is it worth stepping up to the plate and starting a calling campaign or do we just take it on the chin because there isn’t much we can do about it?

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4 thoughts on “To call or not to call?

  1. Lemuel January 28, 2011 / 06:48

    Interesting.
    My bottom line: You yourself are going to have to do the research/analysis/soul searching and decide. It’s a tough call in this current world.
    That being said, first I would like to chime in that this is not “Obama’s fault” except in the sense that the law was not nearly *strong enough*. What you are seeing is the attempt (and the ability) of the insurance industry (and corporations) to work around the new law and circumvent its intentions. Their hope is that the blame for the pain will be cast upon Obama rather than additional light being shown on their predatory practices. So far their plan is working.
    I do not know if your calls to corporate will accomplish anything. I do think that letters outlining what is happening should be sent to congress critters and to the appropriate federal and state commissions. I would include Rep. Anthony Weiner as a recipient of these letters, especially if your particular critter is clueless to the state of health care in this country or is in the pocket of the insurance industry.
    If I understand you correctly, Maddog, your post seems to indicate that in your particular restaurant the management does not generally schedule anyone for 30+ hours. Is this true across the chain? In considering the question of how to respond to this call to protest, that could be an important consideration. The issue may be mute for you and your co-workers, but is it also mute for all other restaurants in the chain? If it is not a mute question for others, then the question needs to addressed as to the importance/need/comfort to yourself for standing up for the benefit of others when it does not directly benefit you. What will it cost you to speak up and are you willing to bear that cost? What will it cost you *not* to speak up and are you willing to bear that cost? (and, yes, there will be a cost either way.)
    My best always.

  2. Karen January 28, 2011 / 09:07

    I was surprised that the none of the servers at your restaurant are scheduled for enough shifts to make 30+ hours a week. That’s a great way to make sure no one qualifies for benefits. I would guess that most of your chain do the same….. saving the company tons of money.
    The phone call campaign is a great idea… and maybe the only recourse you have.

  3. Catrina January 28, 2011 / 11:17

    This has been WalMart’s policy for years. Very few employees in any given store have insurance benefits. They make sure the majority of the employees work less than the hours needed to be covered. WalMart also gives new hires info about applying for state funding (WIC, Link Card, etc.), because the majority of WalMart employees live below the poverty level. Yeah, I’m NOT a fan of Wally World!

  4. Sarah January 28, 2011 / 12:23

    It would be important to contact a couple of health insurance brokers. Explain that there is company-wide displeasure with the plan and pass on the name of the HR person who makes the insurance decisions. Maybe some broker out their can work to put a better package together with a different carrier. It’s done all the time. Especially for accounts this big.

    Additionally, and most importantly, someone in each state should contact their state’s Department of Insurance and explain the changes in great detail to learn about the legality of these changes. Do not assume that just because an insurer has found a way around the law that they are doing so in an above board manner. Insurance companies count on their clients’ ignorance of the law to get away with not providing coverage. Few things rattle a carrier as much as the phrase, “I’m going to contact the Department of Insurance and check on this matter.”

    Also check with the Department of Labor and see what they say about this.

    This is the sort of corporate shit, if being done en mass in America, that could bring back unions and/or revive the fight for a public health insurance option.

    Just make sure the most level-headed people are speaking for you.

    Or move to Canada. You would have a public plan. Of course, your tips would suck but you’d be making just over $10 an hour with minimum wage so it might even out. ; )

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