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Bend Newspaper Group Drops Employees' Health Insurance

The company that publishes the Bend Bulletin and a half dozen other regional papers says it can no longer afford to provide health insurance to its employees.

Western Communications broke the news to its nearly 300 employees on Monday.  The company, which emerged from bankruptcy protection last year, will end its self-insured group health plan on January 1.

Under that system, the company itself pays employee claims, in part through employee premiums.  

Publisher Gordon Black says the company keeps an insurance policy in the event an employee’s claims exceed $100,000 in a year.  But he says the company remains financially exposed if numerous employees get sick simultaneously.

Black says the company explored other options, but found the alternatives neither fair nor affordable.

“We had this choice or we would have probably been looking at eliminating lots of bodies, lots of people, lots of jobs.”

Black says while recently enacted provisions of the Affordable Care Act didn’t directly drive the decision, he says the company would have been forced to drop its coverage in 2015, the year the employer mandate goes into effect.